The Linguist

The Linguist 54,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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14 The Linguist FEBRUARY/MARCH FEATURES BUSINESS INNOVATION Turning an invention into a marketable product requires a very carefully worded patent It may be a challenging field, but patent translation can be well-paid and very rewarding, says Michelle Deeter A professional translator once told me that he would never consider patent translation because it was too confusing. But when you consider the high demand for competent patent translators, I think it is worth a second look. Patent translation is not for everyone, but it is a very well-paid field, and is as rewarding as it is challenging. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is a system that allows inventors to file patent applications in multiple countries simultaneously, and its office translates a wide range of intellectual property materials. It is a reliable source for patent data. In 2013, approximately 205,300 patent applications were filed to the PCT office; 1 the top six filing countries were (in order) the USA, Japan, China, Germany, the Republic of Korea and France. 2 If you work in the languages of any of those countries, you're in luck! Two Asian companies earned the title of Top Patent Applicants 2013: Panasonic Corporation of Japan (2,839 applications) and ZTE Corporation of China (2,309). 3 This reveals a strong trend for patents in the area of mobile technology. Other popular patent publishing fields include electronic machinery, computer technology and digital communications. Novelty and inventiveness In order to translate patents well, it is important to understand how the patent application process works. A patent is defined as the right granted to an inventor to exclude others from selling or making an invention for a certain period of time. In return, that inventor is required to disclose some information about the invention so that others can benefit and technology can continue to improve. There are three conditions to patentability. First, the invention must comprise patentable subject matter: substances already existing in nature and mathematical methods are not accepted. Second, the patent must be applied to some practical use, known as 'industrial applicability' or 'utility'. Third, it must exhibit novelty, which primarily means the invention cannot already exist. These conditions affect a translator's word choice – the words need to reflect what the applicant expressed in the source language accurately, but also as broadly as possible. I once completed a translation that mentioned riding a vehicle called a 电动助力车 (lit. 'electrical assisted-power car/vehicle'). I confidently translated the term as 'electric bicycle', because a car is driven, not ridden. But my mentor changed it to 'electrically- assisted vehicle' because that phrase could be interpreted more broadly and was therefore more beneficial to the patent applicant. Even though this method leads to some surprising descriptions for ordinary objects, it makes sense. Each word needs to be specific enough to prove that it is a new idea, yet broad enough to include multiple possibilities, such as a product being made of varying materials, using different power sources or achieving the same effects through different means. Background knowledge The best patent translators will have experience working at car manufacturers, software corporations or similar companies, so they have previous exposure to technical terminology. However, even after a year A patent challenge © SHUTTERSTOCK

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