The European Patent Office (EPO) and American Internet giant Google signed yesterday (24 March) an agreement to collaborate on machine translation of patents into 32 European, Slavic and Asian languages.
Under the partnership, already announced in November 2010, the EPO will use Google Translate technology to offer translation of patents on its website into 28 European languages, as well as into Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.
Earlier this month, after years of deadlocked talks on a common EU patent, ministers from 25 member states decided to go ahead with plans to introduce a common system requiring patent applications to be submitted in English, French or German – the three working languages of the EPO.
Meanwhile, Italy and Spain are still refusing such arrangements because they disapprove of proposed rules regarding the choice of official languages.
EPO President Benoît Battistelli said the new translation tool was a further stepping stone to improving innovation in Europe and enabling European businesses to operate on a level-playing field with competitors in other regions.
"Moreover, I am convinced that it will facilitate the development of the unitary patent," Battistelli added.
However, while the automatic computer-generated translation system will give real-time access to existing patent information free-of-charge, these translations will have no legal value and should be used for information and research purposes only.
Google to scan all patents
Under the EPO-Google agreement, the patent office will offer Google access to its entire corpus of translated patents to enable the Internet giant to optimise its computer-generated translation technology for the specific language used in patent registrations.
According to the EPO, "the agreement is non-exclusive, and there is no financial component involved". Antoine Aubert, head of public policy at Google's Brussels office, said the project would be of huge benefit to inventors, scientists and innovators as it enables them to speed up R&D efforts by conducting searches in their own language, across the entire spectrum of EPO patents.
From 2011 onwards, companies, inventors and scientists will be able to search for patents on the EPO website in English, French and German, and translate between them on the fly.
The other European languages, as well as Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian, will be made available in phases, and the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.