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The Challenges of Patent Translation


Patent translation is a specialized niche field of professional translation services. Patent translators have acquired both technical and legal expertise in patents and will have also become familiar with the necessary terminology in at least two languages (source and target languages) to enable them to competently deal with the task of patent translation. This means that translators whose job it is to translate patents are faced with a number of unique challenges related to patent translation services.

What is a patent?

Patents are legal protections for newly developed items of all sorts ranging from medications to electronic components. When a developer gains a patent for the item they have created, it provides legal protection for the design concept of that item. Once the patent has been issued, then no-one else can commercially offer for sale an identical item. This protects the developer from the potential financial losses if someone uses the same design that they have spent time, energy, and money on developing for their own commercial purposes.


    A patent for a newly developed physical item is the equivalent to copyright protection for something unique that has been created in text form.

    Patents are normally given out by an individual national body, but there are also international patents governed by international legal agreements. There are also some countries where the copyright or patents obtained in another country do not have legal validity.

    Whenever an inventor or developer creates something commercially valuable, they may first apply for a patent in their own country, and then apply for patents in other countries to avoid copycat development or manufacture.

    Why is patent translation needed?

    Patent applications in other countries often involve translating the patent into another language. This can be a challenging exercise and best left to specialized patent translators. There is also a demand for patent translation within the same borders as the place where the item was first developed. This is particularly true in any country where there is more than one official language, such as Switzerland, Malaysia, etc.

    Patent owners are particularly anxious that their patents are translated as accurately and completely as possible as errors in the translation process may leave them open to legal misinterpretation and their design losing its patent protection.

    The challenges of patent translation

    There are several challenges involved in patent translation services. For a start, the patent involves both legal and technical knowledge. The translator must be familiar with patent laws in both the source and target languages, i.e. the country in which the patent was first granted and the country for which a patent has been applied for.

    The patent translator also has to contend with both technical texts relating to the description of the item for which the patent has been applied for but usually a number of technical drawings, sketches, and images that provide a visual description of the item. Each of these illustrations must have its annotated descriptors and labels translated accurately.

    Patent translators are also expected to be familiar with the bureaucracy involved in granting patents. This often relates to the accuracy and level of completeness with which the patent application and its translation have been presented in.


    Inventors and developers want to be assured that their time and money involved in creating something new and potentially commercially viable is not wasted by someone copying the design as soon as it appears on the market. Developers apply for patents that are a form of legal protection for that particular design. Patent translators are tasked with translating the patent or an application for a patent into another language so that patent protection can be provided outside the borders of the country in which the original patent was granted.

    There are several challenges that are unique to patent translation. Those individuals or businesses that are looking to have their patent translated should use a specialized patent translation service.

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