We all have heard about patents, intellectual copy rights and trademarks, and how important they are for the development of a given business. Infringement of such rights can lead to lengthy legal processes and payment of significant fines. Therefore, if a business wants to develop and market a patented product abroad, it needs a proper translation of the patent documentation in order to protect it rights in the given country as well.  

There is a unique pattern of translating patents in the sense that it is a specific task and not all translators perform it. As a business, you need a serious language service provider (LSP) with translators who have the knowledge in the given field and have experience with patent translations.  

What is a Patent?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a patent is “the official legal right to make or sell an invention for a particular number of years.” Wikipedia goes a bit further to describe patent as “a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state or intergovernmental organization to an inventor or assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention.” In other words, a patent is a right that prevents other people from using, selling or making your invention for a given period of time. In the USA, the organization that grants patents is called the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It grants patents for the protection of inventions and registers trademarks. Usually the term of the patent is 20 years and it is valid only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. 

Patent Categories:

  1. Utility patent for inventions or discoveries of any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
  2. Design patent for inventions of a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture;
  3. Plant patent for inventions or discoveries and asexually reproductions of any distinct and new variety of plant. 

In all cases, a patent is a competitive advantage for any business that should be used wisely.  

Why is Patent Translation Important? 

In order for a company to market its invention abroad, it needs to get the same rights in the foreign country it is targeting. To that end, the business needs to apply for recognition of the patent in that country, which includes translation of the original patent granted from the USPTO into the target language. This is done by knowledgeable translators with extensive experience with document translation and more specifically, patent translation. The patent is a very complex document that contains a lot of technical terms. The wording and the terminology are very specific and not always easy to translate into a foreign language. 

Nevertheless, companies need translation of patents in order to grow their business. It is very important to have a proper translation done by qualified translators in order to avoid any issues with the patent in the foreign country. Note that the translated patent document is not the only piece of paperwork needed for obtaining patent rights in a different jurisdiction. Make sure that all supporting documents are translated by the same translator and/or agency to ensure consistency in the job.  

As the patent is a legal document, its inconsistent or incorrect translation may have dire consequences. The translated document may, for example, limit the scope of the patent or lower the level of protection granted. This can lead to significant legal and financial consequences. Therefore, a proper translation of the patent is very important.  

Important Skills for Patent Translation

In addition to the essential skills every translator should posses, such as ability to stick to a given framework and translate style and jargon, when translating patents, the person should be a professional in the field. This means: 

  • Using concise, clear and direct language
  • Highest possible accuracy 
  • Providing precise description of a given chemical process or technical device or the like 
  • Giving a literal translation and not searching for the most appropriate equivalent in the specific culture (just contrary to what e-learning localization aims for) 
  • Having profound knowledge of the technical terminology 
  • Being a subject matter expert 
  • Being familiar with the patent format required by the offices of the different countries 

All of these skills combined are a sign that the translator is experienced in the field of patent translation and is familiar with the pattern that needs to be followed. Proofreading in this case is also a must since it will guarantee that there are no typos or other mistakes in the translation.  

No doubt, patent translation is a serious undertaking. The companies should budget for the higher costs associated with it, since it is very important for the development of the business abroad and maintaining the corporate integrity. Patent translation is a serious task that follows one pattern – absolute accuracy and precision in the translation with no room for doubt, variations, or unclear meaning of words and phrases. It is a job performed by highly skilled and experienced translators who are familiar with all the peculiarities of a patent and the paperwork associated with it. 

Source:  the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

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