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Patent translation: the importance of a human professional translation

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Patent translation is the process of translating a patent application into another language so an international audience can access the information.

Patent translation is the process of translating a patent application into another language so that an international audience can access the information about the invention. It is especially important in the modern global landscape where businesses increasingly compete on the worldwide stage. Success in this realm comes from innovation, which is why patent protection for these innovations is so essential.

The Need for Patent Translation

The need for patent translation is increasing with the steadily growing number of worldwide patent applications. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), companies spend $1 billion annually on patent translation. In 2014 alone, more than 76,000 U.S. patents were translated into other languages, as well as more than 100,000 European patents.

The Cost of Patent Translation

Patent translation requires the substantial cost of a translator who has the specialized technical skill necessary to translate complicated industry jargon and legal patent language. Most translators can handle about 2,000 words per day, or eight pages, meaning that the average 9,400-word patent application will take about a week to translate without accounting for quality assurance measures such as proofreading. Translation costs represent a significant budget item for those who plan to apply for patent protection in more than one nation.

The cost of translating a patent varies by industry, with biotech and pharma companies spending the most on average. That's because these applications are usually translated into twice as many languages as those in other industries.

The cost of translation also varies based on the average income of the country in question. For example, it's more expensive to hire a translator in high cost-of-living countries such as Sweden and Japan, and more affordable in countries with a lower cost of living, such as Spain and China.

Even within the same language, dramatic price variance can occur because of the lack of industry transparency. In many cases, these price disparities reflect the quality of the finished product.

The Importance of Quality Translation

Reliable translations can have a positive impact on the value of your international patents, while inadequate translation can lower their value. Because a good translation must marry complicated technical content with expertise about both the science and language issues at hand, hiring the wrong professional can have grave consequences in the form of significant errors in content. These consequences include:

  • Production delays

  • Increased costs for correcting erroneous translations

  • Damaged ability to enforce international patients

In one survey, more than 80 percent of respondents reported experience with incorrect patent translations; in a quarter of these cases, these errors damaged the ability of the innovation to receive patent protection.

For this reason, a patent translation must be actively managed when a company is attempting to build an international patent portfolio. Translation is costly, and the effects of an inadequate patent translation on an invention can be disastrous. Centralizing translation management can improve budget projections, increase transparency, stabilize costs, and increase buying power. That also enhances the quality and establishes lines of accountability to reduce errors.

Filing vs. Information Translations

In most cases, you must file for a patent in every nation where you want to obtain IP protection for your invention. These applications are usually required to be submitted in the official language of the country in question. It's essential to understand the differences between translating a patent for information and doing so for filing.

Patents translated for filing will serve as the official record of your patent in the foreign nation in question. The audience for this document is patent licensees, patent office employees, and legal professionals. This type of translation should be written clearly and minimize the use of technical jargon. Short, simple sentences are best. Once translated, the application should be understandable by someone with limited expertise in the field.

Information translations are used for patents that have already been filed, typically when they are needed as legal evidence. Usually, only the relevant portion of the application needs to be translated. Unlike filing translations, however, in which the translator can take liberties with language and format, this type of translation must be as close as possible to the original language used.

In both cases, you may be required to use a professional translator.

SOURCE: This article has been originally printed by UpCounsel


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I have 20 years of experience in translating patents from English into Portuguese, for application in Brazil.



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