Patent translation projects usually fall into one of two categories: patent translation for information or patent translation for filing.
At a glance, it can be difficult to distinguish patent translation for information from patent translation for filing.
The distinction is important to make, however, since the two have vastly different purposes and audiences — two key aspects that greatly affect the way in which each of these types of patent translations are produced.
Audience and Purpose: Which Patent Translation to Use
Patent translation is extremely important and can be used for a variety of purposes, from marketing to meeting European patent requirements.
Patents translated for filing are, as their name suggests, designed to be filed as official patents in foreign countries. These are most likely to be read by legal professionals, patent office employees and potential patent licensees in the foreign country.
Patents translated for information are used to learn the contents of patents that have already been filed, usually for the purposes of evidence in court proceedings (such as intellectual rights claims). In many of these cases, only relevant portions of the patent will be translated so that no time is wasted on sections of a patent that have little or nothing to do with the issue at hand.
For both types of patent translation, a certified translation may be required. For this reason, it’s important to use qualified professionals who are not only expert linguists, but also have expertise in the field the patent translation deals with. From medical translations to science and technical translations, there are linguists for all types of specialties.
Characteristics of Patent Translation for Filing
Since patent translation for filing caters to a diverse audience of professionals who can influence a patent’s success, the patent should be written in a clear manner with minimal technical vocabulary. Ideally, patents for filing are translated in a way that allows a person with no field-specific knowledge to understand the patented idea or product’s purpose.
Short sentences, straightforward, uncomplicated language and elimination of redundancies are recommended. Patent translation for filing allows for flexibility in the translation process, meaning that the translation may be quite different (often simplified) from the original patent.
For instance, text may be added or deleted during the translation process. Additionally, changes from the original patent can be made, and multiple patent applications are allowed to be combined in a single patent translation.
This doesn’t mean the translator has free rein, though: such changes are specified by the client — the company or individual planning to file the patent — and not made of the translator’s own accord!
An expert in patent translation should be aware of the possibilities in the field, however, and may make suggestions to clients, who should work closely with the translator assigned to their patent project. This makes the patent application process abroad more efficient and effective, and allows patent translation to undergo localization to meet country-specific patent norms.
Characteristics of Patent Translation for Information
Patent translation for information does not offer the same flexibility as patent translation for filing. This type of patent translation requires a literal translation, as close as possible to the original. In this case, edits — like adding or deleting information — are strictly not allowed.
Since there is no legal specification as to what makes a “literal” patent translation, translators are often faced with difficult decisions when translating patents for information purposes. Something as seemingly easy as the dividing of sentences can make for uncertainties in the patent, since there is no actual law as to whether or not this is permitted.
For instance, a translator working on a German-English patent translation for information may want to split some lengthy German sentences when translating to English. The question of whether to make such changes needs to be addressed carefully. As much as possible, the patent translation should stick to the original document.