Patents and trademark translation

Published on 20/10/2021

The number of patent applications is growing rapidly, which leads to an increase in the demand for patent and trademark translations.

According to the EPO Annual Report 2019, a record number of almost 175,000 patent applications were filed only in the European Union with Germany and France leading the ranking. International leaders in filing patent applications are the United States, Germany and Japan.

1. What is a patent?

A patent is the set of rights that a given country grants to the inventor of a product, process or technology when registered. These rights not only allow the legal “holder” to commercialise his/her creation for a period of time, but also protect it against plagiarism, or other people wanting to commercialise it.

1.1 Patent law and the European patent

The earliest recorded patent legislation dates back to 1474 and was developed in Venice.

The first known patent in the United States, was granted to Samuel Hopkins of Philadelphia in 1790 for “the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process”. It was good for a total of 14 years.

It was the Industrial Revolution, which spread the regulations and legal frameworks of patents and trademarks worldwirde.

1.2 Different patent systems

Today we have three types of patents.

National patent rights are only valid within the country in which they were granted. However, this fragmented system is not only inconvenient, but also costly for inventors who intend to commercialise their invention abroad.

In order to simplify patent registration procedures and reduce costs, in 1973 the European patent was created, which grants the same industrial property rights as national patents, but with validity in as many countries as the applicant wishes (within the European Union).

However, if none of these systems suits your needs, there is a third way to guarantee your rights and the protection of your invention. I refer to the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty), which assists applicants in seeking patent protection internationally. This system was developed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which grants patent rights in many countries outside the European Union (United States, Japan, China, etc.).

1.3 Why is patent translation necessary?

Europe covers 21 % of the worldwide exports, that’s 388 billion USD in 2020. Germany is by far the biggest export country in the EU. This number is constantly increasing, especially the US and China are world leaders in exporting goods.

Therefore, when marketing a product, companies should ensure that the product will bring maximum profitability. This, of course, includes commercialisation in foreign markets, as well as all the legal frameworks that come with international patent registration.

In order to be able to file a European patent in another country or via the PCT, it is obligatory to submit a translation of the original patent documents.

Patent application is a lengthy process. It may take more than a year if the documentation is submitted correctly. However, the time and cost can increase drastically if the translation is not perfect and therefore may be rejected. Then you have to start the whole process all over again.

2. What are the characteristics of patent translation?

The translation of patents falls under the heading of technical translations, and presents many translation challenges, which a specialised translator has to overcome in order to guarantee an accurate and high quality translation.

Some of the features of this type of technical document are:

  1. Abundance of technicalities: patents are both technological and legal documents. Therefore, they present a high content of specific terminology.
  2. Absence of ambiguity: the very nature of the document means that it seeks maximum clarity, using clear and concise language that does not leave room for free interpretation.
  3. Thorough review: in a document with so many implications, any typo can jeopardise the patent application. That’s why these translations must be scrupulously reviewed and proofread.
  4. Because of all these difficulties, patent translation is in many cases ineffective and opaque.

3. Patent translation services

In such cases, the translator's task is not only to accurately reflect the original, but every note, every paragraph, every heading, every number, every synonym and every repetition must be perfect. It is not just a question of good translation, but of knowing the subject matter and using the right language.

Given the importance of the process and all its implications, it is highly recommended to turn to a specialised translation agency, with qualified professionals who carry out the patent translation.

If you need some guidance or would like to request a quote, please do not hesitate to contact us. AbroadLink´s technical translator team is specialised in various professional fields (pharmacymanuals, etc.).

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