Questions your (patent) translator should ask you

When you approach a translator for a patent translation, they will need to know a number of things:

  • Deadline. While it will be obvious to you why you need the translation by a given date, you may need to explain this to the translator. The answer to this is usually wrapped up with …
  • Why you need the translation. Is it a PCT that needs an English translation filed by a given date? or a new application for filing? or a citation in an opposition case? The translator will appreciate that different types of translation have different levels of urgency.
  • This may also determine whether you need a verifiable translation or one that corrects any clerical errors in the original document. Either way, the translator should provide a note explaining the nature of the error, probably in a separate list but possibly as a footnote in the translation. Let the translator know what you prefer.
  • Does the specification include drawings? Even if they don’t have any wording, the translator will need them as well as the text. 
  • Format for the translation. Usually, this will be a Word document sent by email, but you may have a more secure delivery method.
  • Do you have any background material that will throw light on the case? Or will all the information be available on Espacenet (for example)?
  • Does the applicant have any preferred (English) terminology?

Other points to bear in mind:

  • Often, professional translators specialise in a particular subject field and work pretty much only in that. This means you can rely on them to keep up to date with developments in that industry and to write knowledgeably in their translations. Don’t hesitate to ask the translator how they developed their specialist knowledge of your sector …
  • … and don’t be surprised if they ask questions about the text you’ve sent them: this shows they are determined to “get to the bottom” of anything that is unclear.
  • Conversely, the translator should be happy to discuss individual queries that you have about the translation they have delivered, once you have had a chance to look at it.
  • Translation is normally charged by volume: in the UK by the word; in Germany by the standard line of 55 keystrokes; in Italy by standard page. But feel free to ask for a fixed quotation if that suits you better.
  • There can be a big difference in the word count in different languages (for example, the German term Durchschlagfeldstärke might be breakdown field strength in English). Make sure you know whether the word count will be by the original or the translation.
  • Unlike the work of a professional (human) translator, Google Translate and its like on the Web are completely free. But bear in mind that when you put a text into Google Translate you are giving Google a licence to make use of the text in any way it wishes – not something you want to do with a patent application that has not yet been filed. Or any document, for that matter.
  • You can find more general advice in the booklet “Getting It Right”, available from ITI’s website, by clicking here

If you have other questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch by telephone or email. Cate will be happy to help.