MultiLing_Michael_Sneddon.jpgIn today’s global economy, inventions and products easily cross borders.  For multinational corporations with intellectual property (IP) at the very foundation of their business, keeping IP secure is essential to survival. This security requires treating the invention as a trade secret or filing patents in specific jurisdictions around the world. Obtaining patent protection in multiple jurisdictions requires patent applications to be translated to and from a variety of languages.

If you’re experienced with translations, you may incorrectly assume you can approach patent translation in the same way you approach other translation projects. Many materials can be reworded, adjusted, modified and reformatted to accommodate linguistic and cultural nuances. Patents, on the other hand, require very specialized and precise technical and legal language. Even one inaccurate or confusing translation can jeopardize the patent, potentially costing millions of dollars in lost revenue and damaged brand reputation. Furthermore, every patent’s style, structure and formatting must adhere to the specific rules of the applicable patent office having jurisdiction for the filing, prosecution of the patent, and the award of coverage.

What You Might Be Missing…

Considering the importance of accurate patent translations, there are several criteria to consider to ensure the translators – or patent translation service – you are working with are providing the most accurate patent translations – translations that can withstand prosecution and litigation. 

Here are three reasons your patent translations may not be as accurate as you think they are:

1. You didn’t confirm the translator’s expertise: Patents are intricate documents that require specialized knowledge. Patent translators need to have a clear understanding of a client’s IP and the technical field it relates to, together with native language skills and expertise in the legal terminology and sentence structure used in patents. Sometimes these structural norms contradict normal rules of grammar. Patents will incorporate industry-specific terms based on the particular field relating to the IP and legal terms relating to the patent. For example, the technical accuracy of the patent’s description or specification section, and the legal accuracy of the claim section, will depend on a translator’s knowledge and understanding of both sets of terms. In addition, patent translators need a clear understanding of patent requirements in the target country. This includes the formatting and structure required by each foreign patent office.

2. You didn’t know that the review process is as important as the translation: For patent translation projects, quality is achieved through a defined process that includes translation, edits and reviews performed by multiple professionals, each of whom have the required specialized training and specific knowledge relating to the patent being translated. When only one translator attempts to translate and edit a patent, the benefits of this multiple-person, comprehensive process are lost. This translation process needs to be documented for evaluation and quality control, and reflect a clear understanding of the patent filing cycle. Look for a streamlined process that consolidates translation (and other foreign patent filing tasks) to a single project manager, who will manage the interaction of those specialized teams for quality, consistency, on-time delivery and transparency in reporting.

The process of producing, translating and filing patents is a formidable one. Not all patent translation service providers are equally willing to be flexible in adapting to their clients’ process requirements, especially when change is involved. Ensure your patent translation service provider is open to working with you to make the process more simple and less stressful. 

3. You didn’t understand the importance of technology tools: Technology can improve the quality of the patent translations and lower costs in several ways. While every patent is unique, a company filing multiple patents often has similar terms and phrases in each of them. For this reason, it is extremely helpful to use technology that documents and manages repeated terms and information from past projects to assist in subsequent translations.

This “terminology management” technology:

  • Ensures that the most accurate terms are used in a consistent manner
  • Improves productivity
  • Saves significant time by not having to translate the same phrases and terms over and over

Additional translation technology should bolster the efforts of human translation teams by leveraging previous translations, maintaining a terminology database and simultaneously tracking the status of each patent across all languages and countries.

To help ensure the accuracy of the patent translations, you need to consider the people, processes and technologies the translators—or the full service patent translation service provider—you are using. Taking the time to make sure you find the right fit for your company will help ensure the security of your intellectual property and make a potentially complicated process run efficiently and effectively.

Michael Sneddon is the president & CEO of MultiLing, an innovative leader in IP translations and related services for foreign patent filings by Global 500 legal teams. Sneddon, who started the company in 1988, is an attorney and member of the American Intellectual Property and Law Association (AIPLA).