On November 30, 2010, the European Patent Office (EPO) and Google signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand and improve upon translations of European patents.
Specifically, the EPO will use Google’s machine translation tool to translate European patents into the languages of the 38 EPO member countries. In return, Google will receive access to the EPO’s database of patents.
Currently, EPO applications must be filed in one of the three official languages: English, German or French. Following grant, the applicant must then get the patent claims or the entire specification (depending on the country) translated into the official language of each individual EPO member country in which it wishes to receive protection. However, for those countries where protection is not sought, no translation is required. As a result, many granted European patents rarely get translated into more than a handful of languages.
This agreement between the EPO and Google will certainly benefit the public by increasing its accessibility to EPO patents. Upon implementation, anyone will be able to search the 1.5 million patent documents in the EPO in any of the official languages of the 38 member states, not just the languages of the countries it was validated in.
Although this agreement represents a big step for machine translations of patent documents, most agree that current technology still falls short of the accuracy of a human translator. If you need assistance with (and/or an accurate estimate for) European patent validation or patent translation, please contact us.