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Patents: A Unique Type of Legal Translation

patent translation

legal translation of patentsWhat is Legal Translation?

Legal translation is the conversion of a written legal document from a source language to a target language. Law has a language all of its own and must use appropriate terminology found nowhere else. Document translation is a highly detail-oriented skill, and translating legal documents from one language to another opens up a world of risk that must be considered adequate to avoid undesirable consequences. Today we’ll look at some ways legal translation is used, with a focus on translating patents.

How is Legal Translation Used?

Legal translation comes into play many times in important ways within the lives of private citizens. In today’s globalized world, legal translation of personal legal documents is more of a necessity than ever and should be entrusted only to legal translation experts. Here are some of the variety of personal documents that require professional legal translation:

  • Marriage licenses
  • Birth certificates
  • Divorce Decrees
  • Financial records
  • Academic transcripts
  • Immigration documents
  • Litigation materials

Legal translation also plays an enormous role in the business world. Companies are participating in mergers and acquisitions, stock and/or assets purchases, making new deals and/or opening new locations overseas. Legal translation services are used across a wide range of industries, including finance, banking, media, technology, and manufacturing. Each of these areas has its own industry language and legal terminology. Their legal papers must be accurately translated for the process to go smoothly and to avoid costly errors. Here are a few of the legal documents business owners may need to have translated:

  • Contracts
  • Bylaws and other corporate documents
  • Transaction paperwork for mergers, acquisition, liquidations, public or private offerings, etc.
  • International biddings
  • Litigation papers
  • Patent documents

Translation of Patent Documents

An important legal process in which documentation requires professional translation services is a registry of a patent. Patents might require translation depending on the case and the location in which you are going to file a request for registry of a patent.

What is a patent, why do you need one, and why should yours be translated?

A patent conveys rights. It grants the inventor the exclusive right to manufacture, market, and sell their invention in the country in which the patent is registered giving the inventor protected patent rights. When the registered patent is obtained in the United States with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, these rights are typically guaranteed for 20 years. The same period applies in the European Patent Office (epo.org), but patent registry can grant exclusive rights for a different period and it will be indicated in the patent notice.
A patent registry obtained in the U.S. will only be effective within U.S. borders presenting a challenge for the inventor wishing to expand internationally. Patents are part of the already unique legal language with their own vocabulary and meaning, plus the complexity of technical descriptions, specialized vocabulary, claims, and drawings of the invention.
Patents must be exact and detailed, describing every part of the invention and its function. A single mistake or omission could derail the project and put the inventor’s intellectual property at risk. All the documents that need to be translated for a patent are very sensitive and the translation needs to be filed within a deadline, so accuracy and timing are extremely important.

The need for Professional Patent Translation

Patent law is an interesting and complex field. What can be patented and the rules vary from country to country, and there is also the intricacy of international treaty procedures and considerations. Patents are governed by national laws and in some cases by international treaties, therefore the quality and accuracy of the documents and the translation of the documents that support the patent are as important as the registry process itself.

A smart inventor knows that globalization creates a need for them to present their product to people from different cultures who speak different languages if they wish to serve the needs of that market. Producing and selling goods overseas is a regular practice, but when such products or processes are already patented, producing or selling such goods overseas without a patent registry in the target market is at risk of being copied. Translating a patent to the correct target language also protects the holder’s rights to their intellectual property.

Challenges for Patent Translators

The translation company will select a qualified, experienced, professional translator to work on your patent. They have to be fluent in the source and the target language, be proficient in the legal language of the legal system of both the source and the target language, and knowledgeable in the field of patent law.

Legal translation in the field of patent law presents unique challenges to the translator. Here are some that stand out:

  • Grammar. The professional patent translator cannot afford to make any mistakes when it comes to conjugating verbs, how nouns are treated, if words are gendered, and other grammatical rules.
  • Syntax. Sentence structure differs widely between languages. Mistakes can quickly render a sentence unreadable or the intended meaning unclear.
  • Different legal structure and terminology. This is one of the areas where the consequences of a mistake can be especially dire. The professional patent translator could be dealing with Western-style law, established precedent, blended systems, and more.
  • Cultural sensitivity. Legal structure is deeply cultural and illustrates the morals of the target community and is ingrained in their legal language.
  • Technical elements and industry-specific terminology of the invention. Translation of industry-specific terminology is especially challenging as there are often no exact equivalents or no standardized terms. Thus, it is extremely important for the patent translator to be versed in the technical language of the industry that the inventor is operating in. Special emphasis on:
    • Complete and clear translated illustrations.
    • Steps for detailed processes need to be translated with care.
    • Terminology, acronyms, and names need to be translated with consistency.
  • Stylistic concerns. A professional patent translator cannot use the same localization skills they might apply elsewhere, though national law and cultural mores must be followed. The language of law applying to patents is highly literal; the document must be readable but cannot sacrifice accuracy for style.

Costs of Bad Patent Translation

The cost of a poor patent translation can be high. Mistakes could lead to lawsuits, project delays, lost deals and the costs of corrections, creating a loss of time that is very important in the patent process. The security of the inventor’s intellectual property is at stake; being compromised would be a blow to their livelihood if their security is breached and information gets out before the patent is granted.

Mistakes can be reduced or eliminated by keeping an industry-specific style guide and a glossary of technical terms. Attention should be paid to any graphics, charts, or tables containing important data. Ensuring that the patent in the source language is correct and up to standard before beginning translation is a must. For best results, an inventor should be prepared to provide the correct materials to the legal translation team.

Benefits of Hiring Experts

A translation company for a legal translation project must display the correct set of skills. Choosing a professional team of translators skilled in legal translation and patent law guarantees protection from loss of intellectual property. Professional legal and patent translators also offer a better return on investment by saving time spent on corrections. There will be less scrambling to meet deadlines, costly lawsuits will be averted, and the inventor can focus on establishing good relations with their target market, expanding their brand, and generating more sales.

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Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela. Jackie has a BS in computer engineering; As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.