22 June 2021

Patents: What are they and what translation challenges do they entail?

Categoria: Linguistic Services

According to the definition provided by the Italian Patent and Trademark Office (UIBM), a patent is an exclusive, state-guaranteed right by which a temporary monopoly is granted for a new invention with a potential industrial application, within which inventive activity can be seen.

Inventions are generally defined as new, innovative solutions to a technical problem.

To register a patent, the first step is to prepare a technical description that highlights the purpose of the invention, the gap it fills in the current scenario and the technical problems that will be solved by the invention.

The description must include details of the innovative aspects that the patent is intended to protect.

A patent represents an exclusive right of use that has both time and geographical limits. In terms of time limits, patents are valid for a period of 20 years from the date of registration. And as for geographical limits, patents are confined to the particular country or countries in which they are registered.

Patents are issued either by a national office (in Italy, it’s the Italian Patent and Trademark Office (UIBM), part of the Directorate General for the Fight Against Counterfeiting), or by a regional office responsible for a group of countries, such as the European Patent Organization (EPO).

This will soon be joined by the European Unitary Patent, which will be issued by the EPO. This new type of patent has been devised to streamline the procedure and reduce costs for applicants, but hasn’t yet been formally introduced.

Patents can be filed for innovative products of virtually any kind (machinery, day-to-day objects, storage containers, electronic devices, etc.), but they can also be applied to the procedures used to obtain specific products, foods, compounds or substances.

To obtain patent protection, an invention needs to satisfy certain requirements. More specifically, invention must:

  • include patentable subject matter;
  • be new (requirement of novelty);
  • be inventive (requirement of non-obviousness);
  • have an industrial application (requirement of utility)
  • be described clearly and fully in the patent application (sufficiency of disclosure).

Companies apply for patents in an endless number of fields, including digital services, medical devices, electric machinery, transport, pharmaceutical products, biotechnology, chemicals and so on.

The importance of patents to companies

A patent is a formidable tool that enables a company to become more competitive through innovation, strengthen its position on the market, increase its profits, maximize return on investment and even generate additional revenue through licensing agreements or the sale (assignment) of the patent itself.

Patents reward those who register them by giving them the exclusive right to use the invention, albeit for a limited period usually set at 20 years. At the same time, however, applicants must provide a detailed, comprehensive technical description that would allow an expert to produce the invention or complete the procedure independently at the end of the patent period.

The term assignment, or sale of patent, refers to the transfer of ownership of the patent from one party to another in return for appropriate remuneration.

Under a licensing agreement, the owner maintains ownership of the patent and instead receives financial remuneration and royalties from the licensee.

A broad patent portfolio shows commercial partners, investors, shareholders and clients the high level of quality, specialization and technological capability within a company. In other words, it’s a great illustration of a business’s sophisticated intellectual capital.

Patent translation: a never-ending challenge

Patents are technical and legal documents that require an extremely exacting formal structure and that use sector-specific technical language. They contain many redundancies and repetitions that the translator must retain in the translation, as these are integral to the information being conveyed.

In these texts, there is no room for flowery language or things like synonyms or conjecture. In fact, the opposite is true.

The language of patents is technical, simple and dry – but, crucially, it’s also crystal clear to the relevant people.

The translator must work hard to ensure they pick the right solution to accurately convey the source text and make the translated patent easy to understand for the target audience, without ever getting creative.

In this case, translators are – after all – dealing with the intellectual property associated with an invention.

This branch of translation requires specific experience and skills. And given the heightened need for precision, patent translators often operate in very limited fields (e.g. medical, chemical/pharmaceutical, electronic or mechanical, to cite but a few), within which they will have additional specialties, enabling them to offer clients the best possible service.

For this reason, Way2Global has always selected and trained translators with specific expertise in the field of patents.

In addition to being native speakers of their working languages, our translators must have in-depth knowledge of their special field of translation, in order ensure the highest standards. Indeed, although these requirements are essential for legal translations, we also extend them to every sector we cover as part of our relentless pursuit of excellence.

Need to translate a patent or another type of legal document? Get in touch and we’ll provide you with a quote and any other information you require!


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