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Challenges of Patent Translation

Elite AsiaLegalChallenges of Patent Translation
16 November 2021 Posted by eliteasia Legal No Comments

International patent applications filed via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty, which is one of the widely used metrics for measuring innovative activity, grew by 4% in 2020 to reach 275900 applications. It is the highest number recorded ever, with healthcare innovation led patenting activity as COVID-19 fueled a rise in applications.

Patent translation is the process of translating a patent application into another language so the information about the invention can be accessed by an international audience. It works as legal evidence in court proceedings for patents that have already been filed. Given its unique nature, some key points should be noted in the process of translation.

Unique patent systems

The legal aspects of the intellectual asset vary from one nation to another, such as different patent systems and patent regulations. Translators must understand and ensure coherence between the laws of different countries. Wide modifications shall be made to make the content relevant as well as meaningful for the target audience. Translator should deal with challenges caused by the incoherent translation of legal terms in order to ensure accuracy, avoiding legal repercussions.

Grammar and phrases

No two words conventionally regarded as translation of each other can ever refer to the same objects, especially for patent descriptions which are texts with a high level of complexity and technicality. Inventions usually give birth to new concepts or neologisms as well. Linguists should avoid rigid word-by-word translation, but to deconstruct and understand the phrases and new terms from the source language and deliver them as new concepts or neologisms to the target language.


Many patent documents contain illustrative drawings, figures, acronyms or renderings containing notations relevant to the topic to better demonstrate and explain the new concepts and details. Linguist should provide a literal rendition of any notations, dimensions and all other relevant information. Slight modifications may be necessary as some languages use different numerical notation and formatting. Translator must understand the notations’ purpose and meaning and apply careful judgment and technical experience to ensure an accurate representation.

Technical terms

One of the main challenges of translating patents lies in the great abundance of scientific and technical terminology due to their multidisciplinary nature. Accurate translation of the invention summary, data sheet, specifications, and other supporting documents along with all the technical terminology is critical for successful patent applications and potential patent infringement litigation that may arise in the future. There was once a Japanese company misusing “ferrous oxide” in place of “iron” when filing for a patent in the US. After years of appeal and legal proceeding, it ended up costing the company an additional 11 years to obtain the patent, let alone the astronomical legal fees. Translation should be reviewed and proofread by professional translators with extensive experience in patent translation and knowledge of technical and legal industry.

Racing against time, companies are endeavoring to file patent for their new inventions before their competitors. Not only does patent translation be accurate and error-free, it should also be ready within a short turnaround time. Elite Asia’s patent translation team supported by a group of linguists with years of experiences is committed to providing quality translation and protecting confidential information upon signing a non-disclosure agreement.

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