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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The Consequences of One Bad Document Translation

Professional human translation is critical in the business world, especially when legal or business decisions will be made based off the translated documents.  A company also needs to be sure that qualified translators are utilizing a multi-step, thorough quality control process that will catch any linguistic or technical errors that may impact the accuracy of the final translation. One badly translated sentence in a key document can harm the financial and professional image of a company, as illustrated in a recent incident involving Sharp Corp., described by Daisuke Wakabayashi in the Wall Street Journal blog Japan Realtime in a post titled “Sharp Statement Lost in Translation.”  The post tells how the English translation of a quarterly earnings report for Sharp Corp needed to be amended due to a single sentence which said that “‘material doubt’ existed about its status as a going concern,” thereby indicating the threat of liquidation for Sharp Corp in the near future.

Continue reading to learn about the consequences from a single poorly translated sentence in Sharp Corp’s quarterly earnings report, and learn how to avoid this type of translation error in your own technical and legal documents!
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Expand Your Patent Search Query Through Multilingual Translation Tools

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false] During an initial scope of the available prior art, it can be useful for a patent searcher to expand their query through machine-translation tools to include query terms translated into multiple major languages.  Even if the searcher isn’t fluent in multiple languages, they will still be able to get a general idea of how much prior art is available internationally on a particular technology. When conducting a global prior art search, there’s no replacement for a search conducted by one or more native-language speakers through the patent and non-patent literature in multiple major languages.  Although the following query expansion tools shouldn’t be used as substitutes for a thorough search by multilingual professional searchers, these tools will still be helpful for scoping the availability of international prior art.

The CLIR (Cross-Lingual Information Retrieval) on PATENTSCOPE is the best free option for cross-lingual query expansion, and we’ve briefly looked at this tool in a past Valentine’s Day post.  If users have access to PatBase, they can utilize the new Language Explorer tool (added to the system in March 2012) to expand their query.   The Language Explorer tool is powered by CLIR, so users will get similar query expansion suggestions through both CLIR and Language Explorer.  If users subscribe to Questel’s platform, they can utilize the Multilingual Search Wizard to expand their search with terms in German, French, and English.

After the jump, we’ll take a closer look at each of the multilingual query expansion tools on PATENTSCOPE, PatBase, and!

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A Glance at PLuTO’s IPTranslator Patent Translation Tool

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Today we’ll give you a quick overview of PLuTO‘s IPTranslator tool. This tool provides a simple and unobtrusive way to access customizable machine translations tailored for use while you patent search.

At the Intellogist Blog, we’ve been continually fascinated about the state of machine translation for patent documents. We examined the Future of Patent Translations (Human or Machine?). We’ve taken a look at two specialized machine translation tools: Patent Translate and 2lingual. We’ve conducted a more comprehensive comparison between the machine translation capabilities of Google vs. Bing (second part found here). We’ve discussed expert human patent translation services with Sonja Olsen and Lisa Louis at Landon IP in a two part profile, considering what advantages human translation still retains over machine translation.

So today, sit back and enjoy the latest chapter in our patent translation tale: a look at the very capable IPTranslator!

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Free Asian Patent Searching Information from the EPO Virtual Helpdesk

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Here at Intellogist, we’ve always prided ourselves on reaching out to the global patent community. As part of this we’ve done many posts on one of the fastest growing patent regions: Asia. In the past few months alone we’ve done posts commenting on translations, chemical and sequence searching in China, and lessons learned from PATINEX 2011 in Korea.

Our sponsor, Landon IP knows that it’s more important than ever to incorporate Asian sources into any prior art search, and not just stick to the same old US and EP databases that English language searchers might be used to.

Intellogist reflects this belief, with resources such as the Interactive Patent Coverage Map for finding patent information around the world. Our Community Reports page is another great place to find niche search systems and tools; check out our China Patent Search tagged articles for example.

With this global focus in mind, let’s take a look at one of our favorite Asian patent information resources on the web: the EPO’s Asian Patent Information Virtual Helpdesk.

Read on to find out about how the Virtual Helpdesk can assist you with finding answers to your common questions, information about grant procedure and numbering, statistics on filing, and even a starter for your next patent search.

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A Wealth of Chinese Non-Patent Literature at CNKI

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false] Non-patent literature (NPL) is difficult to sift through for relevant prior art, since there are so many different types of NPL documents.  NPL can literally encompass any type of document or media in any language on any topic under the sun; just look at the wide range of resources recommended in the USPTO Search Templates or the Intellogist Resource Finder, and you’ll get an idea of the wide range of NPL data that a prior art searcher needs to sift through.  So let’s take a deep breath, step back, and focus on one type of NPL for now: Chinese NPL.

It’s difficult enough searching for prior art in your native language, and if you don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese, it can be particularly difficult to locate relevant Chinese-language prior art.  That is why the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) is a treasure trove of high-quality Chinese NPL, searchable in both Chinese and English.  After the jump, learn about the wide range of NPL resources available at CNKI and where to get professional translations of any relevant documents!
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European Patent Office improves access with Google translations

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On November 30, the European Patent Office (EPO) announced that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Google.

Under the agreement, the EPO will use Google’s machine translation technology to translate patents into the languages of the 38 countries that it serves. In return, it will provide Google with access to its translated patents, enabling Google to optimise its machine translation technology. Google technology will be used to translate patents originating in Europe as well as patents originating in other regions of the world and enjoying protection in Europe.

What does this mean for the future of a unified European patent? What does this mean for Google’s future involvement in the patent industry?

Read on for our take on these issues and reasons why machine translation cannot replace human translation in the patent world.

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