This is a guest post by Lyle Ball, COO of leading translation firm MultiLing.
Filing patents can be costly, especially when filing domestically and internationally in numerous countries. In fact, translation costs can eat up a significant portion of a client’s IP budget, with some of the largest patent filers in the world budgeting upwards of $10 million annually to ensure each language version of every patent is accurately translated and localized for each country in which they plan to file. As many of our clients have realized, the most costly element of translation is often not from the initial translation of words, but occurs when even a single word is mistranslated, leading to office actions related to translation, delayed time to grant, an increased risk of litigation or the reduction of patent scope and market opportunity for the life of the patent target.
Depending on the number of patents filed and the number of countries in which the client plans to file for protection, some firms might solicit freelance translators with limited experience to cut costs or partner with specialized patent agents in each country. While these foreign agents are likely extremely familiar with the languages, cultures and patent laws of the individual countries, the downside to this model is that there is no communication between foreign agents and translators across each target country. As well, these freelancers and local agents often lack sufficient scientific knowledge relevant to the patent. Errors found by an agent in one country can easily be perpetuated in the rest of the countries. On the other hand, working with a single patent translation and services provider allows for centralized management that creates collaborations between the translation and processes for each country.
With your client’s intellectual property – and future business – at stake, it’s critical that whomever touches the patent application follows specific best practices in patent translations and other related services. Consider these best practices in people, processes and technologies before you prepare to have your clients’ next patent applications translated:
- Patent translations require a fusion of both linguistic and industry-specific expertise
- As a result, optimal translation teams should consist of in-country native linguists, scientists, engineers and legal specialists
- If planning to file in multiple countries in multiple languages, the company should ensure their patent translation service provider uses a streamlined process with centralized project management – meaning the applications go through one project manager at the provider. This will help create transparency, efficiencies and accuracy in the patent filing process.
- Translation technology should bolster the efforts of human translation teams by leveraging previous translations, maintaining a terminology database and simultaneously tracking the status of each patent across all languages and countries. This increases consistency and on-time delivery at a fair value for the client.
Best Practices Put to Work
A Japanese manufacturing company with more than 10,000 patents in its portfolio was spending more than 40 percent of its IP-related costs on patent translations, with frequent translation errors, clarity-related office actions and delayed time to grant. After considering cutting back on its patent efforts altogether, the company decided to switch from a local translation company using foreign agents to a Japanese patent translation service provider leveraging the industry best practices described in this article. As a result, the Japanese company now sees:
- Zero office actions related to translation or clarity
- Reduced time to get the translations back from the provider because it was able to leverage past translations
- Drop in total cost of patent ownership by 30 percent
- Decreased time to grant by an average of six months, leading to earlier revenues
- Increased scientific accuracy leading to scope protection and market potential
What’s Your Next Step?
Best practices in the translation process can have a major effect on the overall patent filing and prosecution process. The right people, process and technology in IP translations and related services will protect your client’s IP and their IP budget with fewer office actions, faster time to grant and reduced risk of invalidation. Are you happy with your current patent translation and filing process? If not, it’s time to find a patent translation services provider that follows these best practices.
Lyle Ball is chief operating officer for MultiLing, an innovative leader in IP translations and related services for foreign patent filings by Global 500 legal teams. As COO, Ball oversees global operations for more than 200 employees in seven country offices, and more than 1,000 highly skilled contractors across more than 80 languages.