Everything You Need to Know About Patent Translation

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Written by: pTranslate Contributors


1. What is a patent?

When we speak of patents, we think of geniuses, inventors, bright-minded people who come up with amazing ideas that change the world. And that’s true. A patent is a powerful document that can grant exclusive rights over an invention, a new product, or an improved process to its holder.

The patented invention can’t be commercially made, used, distributed, imported, or sold by others without the patent owner’s consent. Of course, the patent owner have full rights to use, or not use, their invention, and can give permission to other parties to use their invention on mutually agreed terms.

The protection of patents help businesses grow significantly and create huge profits. In a way, a patent gives the company an unrivaled competitive advantage. One of the most famous patented inventions was the Lightbulb. It was awarded to Thomas Alva Edison in 1878. However, an English inventor named Joseph Swan also received a patent for a similar invention at the same time. Two of them joined hands and created the Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company. Their patents allowed them to profit from their ingenious ideas and inventions without having to afraid of being copied.

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The Patent Application for the Incandescent Light Bulb of Thomas Edison

2. How Many Types of Patents Are There?

Patents are incredibly diverse. Patents can be granted for any invention in any field of technology, from a highly sophisticated machine to the simple Drop Stop that prevents your stuff from falling down the car seat. The laptop that you’re using can actually have hundreds of patented inventions within it. However, we can generally divide patents into 4 groups:

  • Utility Patent
  • Provisional Patent
  • Design Patent
  • Plant Patent

Utility Patent is the most common type of patent. When we mention “patents”, we are actually talking about Utility Patent. Utility Patents grant its holder the exclusive commercial rights to produce and utilize their products/process for up to 20 years. According to the USPTO, Utility Patents account for up to 90% of the total ofpatent issued. 

Design Patent is a little bit different from Utility Patent in the sense that it only protects the “design” of the patented product. Design Patent is concerned with the exterior design and the ornamental, visual appearance of the object instead of its function. Design Patent is especially vital when it comes to products that have high brand awareness. A famous example of this is the original curvy Coca-Cola bottle. Customers can instantly recognize the brand simply by looking at the bottle, so it makes sense why the company wants to protect the design. Design patents prevent other competitors from developing similar-looking items and exploit the high brand awareness of the patented company.

Plant Patent, as the name suggests, simply means that patents for a newly discovered plant. It is a unique type of patent, but it’s not as frequently issued as Utility Patents and Design Patents due to the relatively lengthy process it takes to examine and approve a Plant Patent application.

Provisional Patent is the “temporary” version of a utility patent. A provisional patent application does not get reviewed, but it still grants the inventor the “patent pending” status. Provisional patent applications follow a loose format, while nonprovisional patent applications have stricter requirements for their content. Due to this flexible nature, filing a provisional patent saves a lot of time and money. This is especially advantageous when the inventor needs to work on certain aspects of their product but still wants to obtain the “patented” status. Of course, provisional patents are valid for a much shorter period, typically within 1 year since the filing date.

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The appearance of the Coca Cola bottle is patented

3. Why should I patent my invention?

  • Exclusive Rights: the patent will grant you the rights to commercially produce and distribute your products and use your processes in business while preventing others from doing so for up to 20 years
  • License your invention: you can choose to license your invention to another party
  • Return on Investment: the investment into researching and developing a new product can be huge, and a patent allows you to earn the profits you deserve
  • Establish a competitive advantage in your market: In today’s world, innovation is the priority. It’s the intangible assets that drive the company forward. With a patented invention, you will be able to establish yourself as a market leader and offer your customers something that none of your competitors have
  • Increased investment: thanks to the competitive advantage that your company now has, investors are more likely to invest in your company, which can potentially drive your market value to an even higher level

4. The Challenges of Patent Translation

Why do we need professional Patent Translation?

Short answer: because a patent is only eligible in the country it was issued.

Long answer: A patent is only valid in one, or a few countries. It isn’t worldwide. You will need to file for a new patent if you want to establish your rights over the invention in another country. There are various reasons for this.

4.1. Language Differences

The language used in patents is incredibly complex and highly technical. This is especially true for patents of technological inventions. The level of technical knowledge required to comprehend the descriptions of a patent application is high. If you don’t translate your patents to the languages of your target country, the patent officials won’t be able to read and understand your inventions.

You are required to file a patent application to the USPTO in the US, to the INPI in France, or to the EPO in European countries. For each department, a different language is used. That’s not to mention the varying requirements for the patent application in different regions, which means that you will have to make minor adjustments to the patent application if you want it to be approved. 

4.2. Differences in Patent Law

Patent Law is still not yet harmonized across the globe. The US Patent Law is significantly different from China Patent Law. It’s imperative that the translator isn’t just “translating” but also incorporating the legal differences in their translation. They need to know and understand the local laws and make sure that relevant information is included if the law requires it.

If you want to learn more about the patent law of various countries, you can go to WIPO Lex. It provides easy access to intellectual property legislation across a wide range of countries and regions.

4.3. Address the complexities of the patent content

There are a few conditions that have to be met when filing a patent. The inventor must prove that:

  • Their invention was truly new and not known in the existing knowledge of its technical field
  • The invention must be “non-obvious”, which means that it can’t be deduced or thought of by someone with basic, ordinary skill in its technical field
  • The invention must be applicable and useful
  • The invention is “patentable” in the law. In some countries, plant patents don’t exist because they don’t allow for plants and animal discoveries to be patented.

Due to all of these complexities, the process of writing a patent application can take a lot of time and effort. Arranging the arguments and presenting the ideas in the most logical way possible to prove the aforementioned conditions is a daunting task. When filing the patent application to another country, the inventor must find someone that is capable of adapting this highly technical and complicated text to the language of their target country, and it’s not easy to find someone with enough subject matter and language proficiency to do that.

5. Patent Translation For Filing vs For Information

There are 2 main types of patent translation: translation for filing and translation for information.

Translation for filing, as the name suggests, is the type of patent translation for filing purposes. It makes your patent application understandable for foreign patent officials. Patent Translation for filing is not bound by strict rules and requirements.

Translation for information, on the other hand, is for court proceedings. It is usually required for Intellectual Property litigations. Patent Translation for information is bound by strict rules and requirements, as the translation will be used as a piece of legal evidence.

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