By Donald Zuhn --
Last month, the European Patent Office announced the launch of a new machine translation service, Patent Translate. Patent Translate, which uses Google Translate technology, allows users to translate between English and French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, or Swedish. The EPO press release on the launch noted that translations offered by the new service cover approximately 90% of all patents issued in Europe.
The EPO also announced plans to extend the service by the end of 2014 to permit users to translate from and to all 28 languages of the EPO members states, as well as provide for the translation of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian languages. The next batch of languages to be added to the system, sometime in 2013, include Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, and Norwegian.
Instructions for using the service can be found on the EPO's Patent Translate webpage (which has been added to the Patent Docs Patent Resources in the right panel). The new service can be used through Espacenet, the EPO's database of more than 70 million worldwide patent documents, or the European publication server.
The collaboration between the EPO and Google has progressed fairly quickly. In November 2010, the EPO announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Google to improve access to patent translations in multiple languages. Under that agreement, the EPO was given use of Google's machine translation technology to translate patents into different languages, and Google was provided with access to EPO patent documents, allowing the company to optimize its machine translation technology. Less than a year ago, the EPO announced that it had signed a long-term agreement to collaborate on the machine translation service that produced Patent Translate. The EPO noted that the agreement involved no financial component. The development of the Patent Translate service was achieved by Google's use of several hundred thousand high quality patent translations to "train" the company's translation system.
EPO President Benoît Battistelli called the launch of Patent Translate "a landmark towards the removal of language barriers worldwide from patent documentation," and suggested that the new service would "facilitate the implementation of the unitary patent which includes an important chapter on translation."
In a related development, the EPO and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People's Republic of China (SIPO) announced last fall that the two offices would work together to assure that automatic Chinese-English machine translation tools for patents would be made available to the public within a year.