The European Patent Office (“EPO”) website will soon allow for anyone to browse its contents in seven different languages, thanks to a translation service which it has developed in partnership with internet behemoth Google.
The system was developed after the EPO provided Google with over 100,000 high quality translations of patents in seven languages, which the search giant then used to refine its existing Translate service. EPO President Benoit Battistelli, speaking about the system, stated that it would go a long way towards making the technical information contained in patents more accessible and that it would remove language barriers from such documents.
Google is no stranger to patents. In addition to being embroiled in ongoing litigation around the world in relation to its Android mobile operating system, the Mountain View company also offers a specialised search service under the banner of Google Patents. Over eight million patents and patent applications from the United States Patent and Trademark Office have been indexed and users are able to view details about inventions including the lawn mower, instant oatmeal and the Ouija board.
The EPO began to work with Google in March 2011 and it is estimated that around nine in every ten European-issued patents have been set out in one of the seven languages in the new system. The EPO will continue to work with Google and aims to include all of the European languages in the system by late 2014, in addition to Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.
Some observers believe the new system to be a solution to the longstanding problem inventors have faced, in that a European patent currently has to be translated into the language of each country where protection is sought. This comes at considerable cost and effort to most inventors. An alternative system was proposed whereby an application would have to be made in English, French or German and then translated into all three languages in order to attract protection across the whole of Europe. This proposal also faced problems when Spain and Italy raised objections.
By Aasim Durrani. Aasim is a paralegal and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org