Monitoring Patent Costs: Translations

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In this installment of our Monitoring Patent Costs series, Ill be discussing translation costs that occur at the PCT national stage. When you’re filing internationally, many patent offices require translation of your application (presumably in English) into their official language. Many applicants fail to factor this requirement into their IP strategy, creating problems both in terms of money and time. By being aware of translation requirements and costs before your deadlines, you’ll be able to save yourself a good deal of headache and cash.

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Rather than going through each country’s translation requirements, I recommend downloading a copy of our PCT filing e-kit. This kit is free, and contains a PCT National Phase Entry Guide which provides filing information for each jurisdiction we offer, including specific translation requirements.

Translations are typically billed at a per-word rate. Items in the application, such as diagrams, chemical formulas and sequence listings will also affect the translation costs. As a general rule, assume that translators can translate approximately 1000 words a day. Here at inovia, we recommend providing your filing instructions 4 weeks prior to the filing deadline to ensure sufficient time to prepare translations. As you get closer to the filing deadline, additional costs such as extension fees and rush charges can be added to your translation fees. Extension fees for submitting a translation late are usually around US$50-100. The availability of translation extensions are also detailed in our PCT National Phase Filing Guide.

A few country-specific tips to keep in mind:

  • Europe: When filing into Europe, you actually do not need to translate your application. English, along with French and German, is an official language of the European Patent Office.
  • Brazil: Brazil requires the translation of the claims into Portuguese at the time of filing. However, the remainder of the application can be submitted later upon payment of an extension fee. Keep in mind that if instructions are provided too close to the filing deadline, rush surcharges are usually added for the translation of the claims.
  • Japan: Japan requires the application to be translated into Japanese. The good news is that the translation can be filed up to 2 months after the national stage filing. Even better, the 2-month extension is free!
  • South Korea: The national stage filing for South Korea is 31 months after the priority date. The translation is due at the time of filing, and remember that there is no provision for submitting the translation later.

Have other specific questions about patent translations and costs? Our PCT e-kit should answer most of your questions but if not, feel free to contact us at mail@inovia.com.
 

Finland to Join London Agreement, Relaxing Patent Translations

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On March 8, 2011, Finland announced that it will join the London Agreement, bringing the total number of member EPC countries to 17.  Previously, validation of a granted European patent into Finland required translating the specification and claims into Finnish (patents in Swedish are also accepted in limited situations).

Once the London Agreement comes into effect, the translation requirements for Finnish validation will be significantly relaxed.  Although the exact details are yet to be determined, it is likely that only the claims will need to be translated into Finnish for applications in English. 

If you would like further information on European validation, with reference details for London Agreement and Non-London Agreement countries, and translation requirements, feel free to check out our European validation handbook and/or contact us.       

One Step Closer to a Single European Patent

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Creation of a single European patent came to a screeching halt when EU member countries were unable to reach the necessary unanimous agreement during talks held in Brussels earlier this fall.  Deadlocked for the past 10 years, the unitary European patent has remained in limbo due primarily to disagreements on which languages would be recognized as an “official” European patent language.

However, the European Commission has recently introduced a plan whereby EU countries could create a single European patent based on the doctrine of “enhanced cooperation”.  Under EU rules, “enhanced cooperation” allows a group of countries to pursue a matter lacking unanimous support by asking and receiving support and permission from the Commission.  It is expected that the EU Commission will release a more detailed proposal in the next year, which will then need consent by the European Parliament, followed by approval by a qualified majority of the member states. 

Under the present proposal, a single patent would be recognized by all countries that had entered into the agreement.  In theory, this singular European patent, though effective only in the participating countries, would be cheaper and more efficient than the current EPO process which requires validation and possibly translations into the individual countries. 

Applicants stand to benefit greatly from this proposal.  Given the high costs of obtaining patent protection in Europe, this proposed single EP patent, though not all-encompassing, signifies a step in reigning in those costs. 

In the meantime, inovia can help you reduce the cost of European patent validation.  Simply create an account on our client portal, enter your EP number and get an instant quote for validating your patent into the selected countries.

EPO and Google Partner Up on Patent Translations

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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.

London Agreement to Come into Effect for Hungary

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On January 1, 2011, the London Agreement will enter into force in Hungary, bringing the total of member EPC countries to 16.  Previously, validation of a granted European patent into Hungary required a complete translation of the specification and claims. 

Under the London Agreement, the translation requirements for validation in Hungary will be significantly relaxed.  For EP applications whose Notice of Grant is published on or after January 1, 2011, validation will require translation of only the claims into Hungarian, along with an English specification. 

With translation costs making up a major portion of European validation expenses, and given the stalled momentum of a unified European patent, the London Agreement plays a vital role in reducing validation costs.  As a result, applicants are able to validate in more countries, increasing their global patent protection.

If you would like further information on European validation and translation requirements, feel free to check out our European validation handbook and/or contact us.

Translation quality for foreign filing

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While we presently accept externally-prepared translations in principle, we sometimes find that translations we receive from clients are not of high quality.

Additional costs are then incurred in having our agents “fix” the translation.  Worse (if it’s not bad enough), the client may end up paying the full cost again to have it translated from scratch – not ideal if they’ve already paid for the first one!

You should be able to say the following about a patent translation:

  1. It is a true and accurate translation of the source document.

  2. The translator is a native speaker of the destination language.

  3. The translator is technically skilled in the relevant technology.

  4. It takes into account any specialist legal language used by patent attorneys in the destination country, including idiomatic translation of special technical or legal words used in the source document. 

  5. It satisfies local formal requirements relating to character set, font size, spacing, margins and so on.

In our experience, translations prepared by anyone other than a specialist patent translator run the risk of significant deficiencies in some or all of the above areas.

For example, it is rare that even a person very skilled in the relevant technical field who writes well in the destination language and has a good understanding of the source language will have any knowledge of the legal language issues, or of the formalities.

The service level agreements we have with our agents require them to satisfy all the above criteria. We also require that the translation either be prepared by a patent attorney or comprehensively reviewed by a patent attorney prior to filing.

In virtually all countries, it is the translation that forms the basis for your rights. Any weakness or deficiency in the translation is a weakness or deficiency in the resultant protection – and worse, it’s one you won’t know about until it’s too late.

If you have thoughts about translations (and particularly the importance of quality), we’d love to hear them. 

Eased Patent Translation Requirements Proposed in Europe

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Validation costs for granted European applications can easily spiral out of control due to the translations required for many countries at this stage.  Translation costs can make up over 75% of the total cost for validation, and as a result, applicants can often only validate in a limited number of Member States. 

The London Agreement, which went into effect on May 1, 2008, helps reduce validation costs by easing translation requirements in the signatory countries.  However, its benefits only apply to the 15 Member States who are currently participants. 

In a bid to further simplify the translation requirements for European patents, European Union Commissioner Michel Barnier recently introduced a proposal that would basically expand the London Agreement to all countries

Under this proposal, applications would be examined and granted in one of the three official languages (English, French or German).  Upon grant, the claims of the patent would need to be translated into the other two official languages.  No further translations would be required, except in the case of subsequent legal disputes. 

In an example where the applicant wishes to validate in 13 countries, this proposal could potentially reduce overall costs from over €20,000 to about €6,000. 

Historically, larger European countries such as Spain and Italy have been unhappy with the idea of their languages being pushed aside in this way.  This is a key reason for the London Agreement covering such a limited number of countries.  Convincing these countries will therefore be the key to this proposal becoming successful. Whether Commissioner Barnier’s proposal can garner the required unanimous support among non London Agreement Member States remains to be seen.

In the meantime, there other ways to minimize translation costs and maximize European patent protection

One Translation – Multiple Countries

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With IP budgets experiencing significant cutbacks in the last year, many applicants have struggled to maintain the same level of global protection they were able to achieve in “fatter” times.  As a result, many applicants must grudgingly reduce the number of countries selected for national stage entry for their PCT applications.

In many countries, translation of the PCT application is a major component of the cost for national stage entry.  As such, translation costs certainly play a key role when applicants decide where to seek patent protection.

Aside from outsourcing your translation work, another tip for stretching your IP budget is to file in countries which use the same translation.  For example (assuming an English specification), the translation into Spanish required to enter into Mexico can also be used for entry into Colombia and other Spanish-speaking South and Latin American countries.

Similarly, a Chinese translation prepared for use with a Taiwanese filing can often be used as a basis for the translation needed for China (though note that Taiwan is not a PCT country, so the translation would have been prepared earlier for direct filing there, often at the same time the PCT was lodged).

Given that translation costs can run into the thousands of dollars, applicants exercising this strategy can realize significant savings, albeit in narrow country combinations.  Especially in today’s economic climate, every little bit counts!

Patent Translations

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As we alluded to in our last blog post, the cost of translation work can be a crippling factor when it comes to seeking patent protection.   When looking to outsource your translation work, you should remember that translating your claims is just as important as drafting them and should only be left to experts.

 
Here at inovia, we are pleased to announce iptranslator — our new patent translation product offering to support foreign filing.  

What sets us apart from other translation firms is our “double certification” methodology: (1) each patent application is translated by a native speaker who is skilled in the relevant technical field and then (2) the translation is reviewed and approved by a local patent attorney.  

Already used in conjunction with our PCT national phase entry and European validation products, we have been doing expert IP translations for over 8 years and have translated over 20 million words into 41 languages.  

inovia Launches German Language Website

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To our German visitors, willkommen!  While our blog is still in English, we did launch a German language version of our website yesterday.  

German homepage

Germany is an important market for inovia.  With 18,788 PCT applications filed in 2011, Germany is the third largest filer in the world behind the U.S. (48,861 applications) and Japan (38,874). 

Wolfgang Danner, head of our Munich office, said, “providing a translation of the existing inovia website tailored for the German market will go a long way in helping effectively communicate the value inovia brings to both the local and global legal community.  Behind the United States and Japan, Germany ranked third in the world for PCT filings, making it an important and strategic market for offering a global instruction platform to help offset the time and expense required for foreign patent filing.”

Click here to read the full press release on the announcement.

A few pages on the site, including our resources page, remain in English as we prep translations of these materials.  Phase II of the German site will launch later on this summer and will include translations of many of our reference materials, including our popular PCT and European validation e-kits

We plan to roll out other native-language versions of our website in the next year.  If you’re a frequent visitor of www.inovia.com and would like to see the site translated into your native language, please let us know in the comments section below!