Don’t Fall Prey to “Awkward” Patent Claim Translations

Applying for patent protection in a foreign jurisdiction can be fraught with difficulties every step of the way. If not handled properly, translating the patent application from its original language to that of the target jurisdiction can lead to huge problems that could come back to bite you down the road, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars in lost intellectual property protection.

Recent news out of the Northern District of Georgia provides even more evidence of the fact that shoddy patent claim translation can result in reduced intellectual property rights. According to an article on Lexology:

In a case between KEG Kanalreinigungstechnik GmbH and KEG Technologies, Inc. (“KEG”) and Reinhart Laimer, Sewer Equipment Corporation, USB-Sewer Equipment Corporation, Ulrich Simpfendörfer, USB-Duesen, USB-Sewer Equipment International GmbH, Patrick Savio, Daniel Long and Elke Krantz (“Laimer”) over patents drawn to “hydrodynamic nozzles” for cleaning the inside surface of underground sewer pipes, Chief Judge Julie Carnes appointed Special Master Gale R. Peterson of San Antonio, Texas to preside over the Markman claim construction hearing and submit a report and recommendation on claim construction to the Court.

The patent applications in question were originally filed in Germany and then translated to English and filed in the United States. The Special Master concluded in his report that:

some of the claim language is “awkward” as a result of the translation.


Laimer contended that some of the claim terms and phrases are beyond “awkward,” and instead are “unintelligible” and render the claims indefinite and invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 112(2).

The report stated:

although the master finds the claims amenable to construction, that does not necessarily mean that the claim passes muster under § 112(2). That is a question for another day.

Although the parties agreed on constructions for some of the terms and phrases of the asserted claims, the Special Master recommended constructions for the other disputed claim language as well. This is yet another example of a poor translation preventing an applicant from getting the exact protection they were seeking.

One bad document translation can cost a company dearly, and this has been clearly demonstrated again by Special Master Peterson. Gale R. Peterson is also a faculty member of Patent Resources Group, the leading provider of U.S. patent bar review and advanced U.S. patent law education, and a fully-owned subsidiary of Landon IP.

How can you avoid a bad patent translation ruining your business?
Customers should only consider professional technical translators who possess an in-depth knowledge of the patent process and the relevant technical art when choosing who will translate the patent documents they intend to use to file an international patent application. Landon IP is a leading provider of patent translation services and other patent-related services, including patent search, and advanced patent law training (Patent Resources Group).
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Legal Cases That Demonstrate the Need for Professional Translators: Part 2

In previous posts, we’ve looked at the numerous financial and legal repercussions caused by poorly translated documents. The mistranslation of a single sentence in a quarterly earnings report for Sharp Corp. caused significant doubts for investors, stockholders, and potential customers about the ongoing existence of Sharp Corp. as a functioning financial entity. The case of Festo Corp. v. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co. illustrates that an improper translation submitted to the USPTO may narrow the scope of the patent claim, since the mistranslation will necessitate an amendment to the patent document.  In the case of Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. v. Samsung, submission of only a partial patent translation led to a charge of inequitable conduct and rendered the patent unenforceable.  Highly qualified professional translators of legal, technical, and patent documents will be able to avoid these pitfalls by providing only the most linguistically and technically accurate translations and possessing an in-depth knowledge of the  patent process.

Today, we’ll look at two more court cases that highlight the consequences of using low-quality translations for legal purposes. You may risk having your translation rejected during the court case due to a poor translation process or questionable translator qualifications. You may also risk the invalidation of your patent claims due to the inadequate translation of a piece of prior art.

After the jump, read about the repercussions of low-quality translations in these two court cases, and learn how  you can obtain the highest-quality legal, technical, and patent translation!

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Legal Cases That Demonstrate the Need for Professional Translators

We previously looked at an instance where a poorly translated sentence in a single quarterly earnings report greatly harmed the financial image of Sharp Corp., a large producer of electronics. This event illustrates the need for a professional translation of important financial, technical, and legal documents that will be used during litigation or to make business decisions. An article from the China IP News by Richard V. Burgujian, Esther H. Lim, Wenye Tan, and Ningling Wang, titled “Practical Considerations and Strategies in Drafting U.S. Patent Applications,” provides descriptions of two cases that demonstrate the importance of using  high-quality professional patent translations during litigation. A poorly translated patent application may need to be amended to improve the translation of a foreign word, and this amendment may narrow the scope of the patent and therefore decrease its value. A patent may be deemed unenforceable if the references submitted with a patent application are not fully translated. A company or individual will pay the price of narrower patent claims or complete loss of patent rights if poorly translated documents are submitted during patent litigation.

Continue reading to learn about two patent cases that illustrate the importance of high-quality patent translations during litigation, and learn how you can obtain the most linguistically and technically accurate professional translations in order to avoid the consequences of a poorly translated document!
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Google Translate vs. Bing Translator, Part 2: Chinese and Japanese Machine Translations

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false] Last week, we compared the language options and interface features of Google Translate and Bing Translator (powered by Microsoft Translator), and we looked at examples of German and Korean patent document abstracts, translated from their original languages to English by both translation services.  We then compared the text of both translations for each abstract using a text comparison feature from the file history tool Patent Workbench®, where text that is present in the Google translation but absent from the Bing translation is highlighted in strike-through red, text that is unique to the Bing translation is highlighted in underlined green, and text common to both translations is displayed as normal black text.

After the jump, we’ll look at two more examples of Chinese and Japanese abstracts, translated by both Google Translate and Bing Translator to English.  We’ll also get some input from Sonja Olson,  Landon IP’s Director of Translation Services, on which translation service she thinks produces better machine translations for patent documents.
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Google Translate vs. Bing Translator, Part 1: Which Produces Better Patent Machine Translations?

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false]  Sonja Olson,  Landon IP’s Director of Translation Services, summed up the main problem with machine translations for patent documents in a previous blog post:

Machine translation will get the gist of the document, but it will lose the nuance.  Machine translation can plug words together, but it can’t understand the sentence as a whole.

Sonja suggested that “if you need to know if a document contains information on a topic, you can go with a machine translation.  If you need to know how that topic relates to the document overall, then go with a professional translation.”

So, users should be forewarned, neither of the free translation services discussed in this post should be used as a substitute for professional human translations.  As you’ll see in the following tests, neither translations (from German to English and Korean to English) for Google Translate nor Bing Translator are entirely coherent.  Although the user can get an overall idea of the content of the documents from these machine translations, both Google and Bing translations would never be acceptable in any legal or official context.

Google Translate and Bing Translator (powered by Microsoft Translator) are useful, however, for evaluating the general content of a patent document during a prior art search.  Which free service produces a better machine translation of a patent document?  Continue reading as we compare the two services!

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Profile of a Patent Translator, Part 2

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false] In our last installment of Profile of a Patent Translator, we spoke with Landon IP Translation Manager Sonja Olson and patent translator Leonid Gornik about what traits and tools a professional needs to succeed in the patent translation profession.  What did we discover?  A professional patent tranlsator needs:

  • Linguistic knowledge
  • Scientific knowledge
  • A wide variety of tools, including dictionaries, online collaboration with peers, and computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools.
I recently had the chance to ask the same questions I discussed with Leonid to a second patent translation professional,  Lisa Louis, who specializes in Japanese-to-English patent translations.  Read on to learn about Lisa’s experiences in the translation profession and her views on necessary skills and tools  for a patent translator!

Profile of a Patent Translator, Part 1

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false]The Intellogist Blog has had the opportunity to interview a number of experts on patent searching, patent data dissemination, and patent landscape studies.  The patent environment provides a broad field for many types of professionals to practice their specialties, and each niche in the patent field requires a unique set of strengths and talents.  The patent translator profession is a particularly tricky field to navigate, since patent translators need an eclectic set of skills (both language and scientific).  New technologies, like machine translation, are also transforming how patent translators work and when their skills are needed.

The Intellogist Blog recently interviewed Sonja Olson, Director of Translation Services at Landon IP, about what skills she thinks are necessary for a translator to succeed in the patent field.  We also interviewed three patent translators about their experiences in this unique profession.  Today, we’ll look at Sonja’s views on the patent translation field and a profile of the first translator interviewed for this piece.  Without further ado, let’s look at a profile of a patent translator.
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