Fueled by the global economy, patent translation services are on the rise

Patent translation is currently one of the fastest growing and most active segments in the translation industry. It makes sense. As the economy is becoming more-and-more global, patent filing is on the rise and an increasing number of companies and inventors are filing for patent protection globally.

The significance of patent information has grown steadily with the creation of a global technology market reflected in a new record of 1.8 million patent filings worldwide in 2010. Despite the economic downturn, filings at the EPO increased again in 2011, to 243 000 (from EPO website)

So last week’s news about the Welocalize merger with patent translation company Park IP Translations should come as no surprise to anyone.  And I have a personal story about this as well. Last summer GTS received an invitation to bid on a RFP for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world; the annual activity on this account is well over $1 Million. I spoke to some of my contacts at the large translation companies and asked if they would like to cooperate on a bid. One of the people I contacted was Welocalize CEO Smith Yewell. Smith responded by saying that he is not interested since Welocalize does not have experience in the field of patent translation. I think that this speaks highly of Smith, who chose to pass on a potentially lucrative opportunity and not risk entering grounds that he is not entirely familar with.

In other news:

WIPO RFP for professional patent translation services

The  World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is going to issue an RFP (Request for Proposal) for professional translation of WIPO patents in the near future.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), one of the 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations (UN) system of organizations, is dedicated to promoting the use and protection of intellectual property throughout the world, including the administration of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The Organization has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

WIPO is about to issue a Call for Expression of Interest (EOI) for the Request for Proposal (RFP) N° PTD/12/003 for the provision of professional services for the translation of WIPO documents from English into one or more of the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

Status of EPO/Google machine translation project

In November 2010 the EPO announced an agreement it had reached with Google to provide machine translation of EPO patents in about 28 languages. I had the opportunity to speak with EPO spokesman Mr. Oswald Schröder who provided some interesting information.

So far, EPOs Espacenet website provides MT of patents in 7 languages: English, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. These languages were expedited since the EPO had an existing rule-based MT system with loads of parallel corpora. Mr. Schröder anticipates that most of the EU languages will be ready on Espacenet by the end of 2012.

The EPO recently entered agreements with the Japanese and Chinese patent offices (see a recent press release about it here). The Japanese and Chinese patent offices are providing their translation corpora which will be used to train the Google system.

A similar written agreement has been reached with the Russian patent office. The agreement will be finalized soon. An agreement with the Korean patent office is close as well, but the appointment of a new Korean patent office commissioner is imminent and the agreement will be finalized by the new commissioner. Mr. Schröder anticipates that most of the non-EU languages will be ready on Espacenet by the end of 2013.

Over 10 man years have been invested in the EPO/Google MT project in the last year. The agreement is entirely non-commercial (which means that Google gets no money from the deal). According to Mr. Schröder, the EPO wants to make translation of global patents widespread and available so that people will be able to find relevant prior art from any country in the world. Mr. Schröder said that many companies sustain major financial damage (or go bankrupt) when they file for a patent, only to learn later that the same patent was already filed in another country (making the patent worthless). The EPO language project will help companies avoid those pitfalls. This interest is shared by many patent agencies in other countries, as proven by the recent agreements.

WIPO parallel patent translation corpus

The WIPO has made available 10 years of parallel English-French corpus of WIPO’s PCT applications (title and abstract) published between 1990 and 2010 in TMX format. Interesting. Jaap van der Meer, did you know about this?