Filing patents ensures the protection of intellectual property (IP). But patents are territorial rights that are only applicable in the country they were filed. Here is where patent translation comes in. Patent translation ensures your IP is protected across the globe.

In this article, we’ll go over what patent translation entails, its importance, its cost, and the need for professional translation services. As a bonus, we’ll discuss machine translation when it comes to patents.

  1. What is patent translation?
  2. Types of patent translation
    1. Filing translation
    2. Information translation
  3. Why is patent translation important?
    1. IP protection
    2. Competitive edge
  4. The importance of high-quality patent translation
  5. When do you need patent translation services?
  6. Why do you need professional patent translation services?
  7. Machine translation for patents
  8. Cost of patent translation
  9. Final thoughts

What is patent translation?

Patent translation is quite simply the translation of a patent from one language into another. As straightforward as that explanation was, the actual translation process is a different matter.

Patents are written in a specific style and different countries have varying requirements regarding formatting and even vocabulary for their patents.

This means that patent translators don’t just need to be proficient in the relevant languages. They also need to have technical knowledge of the specific patent field as well as an understanding of legal terminology.

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Now that we have established our subject matter, let’s take a look at the types of patent translation.

Types of patent translation

There are two types of patent translation: filing translation and information translation. We’ll take a closer look at these below.

Filing translation

Patent translations for filing serve as an official record of the patent in the country in which you are submitting your patent application. This type of patent translation is meant for patent office employees, legal professionals, and patent licensees. These are the people in charge of examining your application.

A patent translation for filing should be clear and concise, avoid technical jargon when possible, but still convey the meaning of the invention properly.

Information translation

Patent translations for information are carried out for legal purposes. Here, the patent has already been filed and is now needed as evidence in court proceedings.

In this case, you may not need to translate the whole patent, but just the relevant portion. However, the translation should be as close to the original as possible.

Why is patent translation important?

According to the WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization), almost 300,000 patents were submitted to the international patent system (PCT) in 2021. Moreover, there are over 600,000 patents published in the United States alone each year. So it’s safe to say this technical field generates a considerable amount of material for translation. In fact, over $1 billion is spent every year on patent translation.

Patent translation is far-reaching, but that’s not the only thing that makes it important.  Let’s take a look at two other reasons that make patent translation an imperative.

IP protection

In addition to the vastness of the patent industry, patent translation offers intellectual property protection. Submitting a patent application internationally ensures IP rights are protected in the intended countries.

Competitive edge

Patent translation ensures you remain competitive in our current global business market. You aren’t just protecting your IP rights, you are also working on becoming a pioneer or, if you already are one, remaining a leader in that market.

The importance of high-quality patent translation

We can’t discuss the importance of patent translation without mentioning how critical quality is. Patents cover a variety of subject matters (such as medical, pharmaceutical, technological, mechanical, etc.) and each country has its own patent system. This means patent translation requires expertise on specific areas and knowledge of patent filing requirements in the relevant country.

Just like we’ve mentioned, patent translation doesn’t just take proficiency in the two languages in question. Technical knowledge and an understanding of legal terminology are just as important.

Moreover, special care should be taken when translating a patent’s claims. The claims of a patent define its scope and are usually kept as broad as possible so as not to limit it in any way. Any mistakes or misinterpretations in this part of a patent can have dire consequences for applicants.

All of this makes it crucial for an experienced technical translator to carry out the job so you can avoid any issues when submitting a patent application.

When do you need patent translation services?

You will need patent translation services anytime you need to submit a patent written in a foreign language. This includes patents to be submitted in the United States that are not in English or US patents to be submitted in a foreign non-English speaking country.

Why do you need professional patent translation services?

We’ve already covered the importance of high-quality patent translation. And, if you want to get a high-quality translation you will need to find professional translation services.

This ensures that your patent translation is error-free, which minimizes the risk of your patent being rejected. If it isn’t rejected, a bad quality translation may mean you cannot enforce international patents properly.

Professional services also ensure your translation is carried out in a timely manner so you can meet patent application deadlines.

Finally, hiring professional translation services will save you money. If you hire someone that offers a cheaper quote but lacks the relevant skills and experience, you may end up needing to retranslate your patent which will end up being significantly more expensive.

Machine translation for patents

The use of machine translation can be quite controversial in the translation industry. The truth is that this field has made incredible progress over the last couple of decades and shown excellent results in some areas.

When it comes to patents in particular, machine translation is already widely used, usually paired with postediting (a revision by a qualified translator). There are various machine translation tools available specifically for patents such as the EPO’s (European Patent Office) Patent Translate service and WIPO Translate.

There are many advantages to using machine translation: it’s fast, scalable, and cost-effective. However, the content and the intended audience are two key factors to keep in mind when deciding if this is the best option for a particular document. You should make sure that machine-translated patent translations are always reviewed by a professional translator that specializes in the relevant subject matter and is aware of the requirements of the country in which you are filing it.

Cost of patent translation

Standard patent translations are usually charged by word and certified patent translations tend to be charged by page (the industry defines one "page" as 250 words). The cost of patent translation will vary depending on the specific industry and the language combination. Another factor to consider is if your translation is urgent as this is likely to increase the price of a patent translation.

When it comes to cost per word, you’ll find prices ranging from $0.08 to $0.50/word depending on these factors. Meanwhile, the cost per page usually ranges from $20 to $130 per page.

RushTranslate provides patent applications translation services starting at $0.10 per word and $24.95 per page (the latter for certified translations).

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Final thoughts

More and more companies are catering to the global market. Submitting patent applications in other countries is a crucial part of this.

Patent translation is an extremely large and complex field that requires expert knowledge. Hiring the right translator or translation company is key for your patent application to succeed and to avoid issues in the future.

We hope this article has given you a comprehensive overview of patent translation and its importance.

Updated October 10, 2022 in Translation