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Patent translations

Patents play an important role in industry and international competition. Since medium-sized and large companies rarely operate solely at national level these days, they are dependent on good, formally correct and accurate patent translations. To register a patent in the European Union, you must use one of the three official languages of the European Patent Office (English, French and German).

Patents are among the areas in which translation errors can have fatal consequences. The wrong choice of words or incorrect punctuation may lead to the scope of protection of the claims being reduced or even lost. Therefore, special care is required when a patent translator is selected and used.

Consequences of incorrect translations

The following story highlights the pitfalls of patent translations in particular because what under normal circumstances is considered at most an imprecise translation has serious consequences here:

Edinburgh University patent "EP 0 695 351" on the cloning of animal cells was granted in December 1999 on the basis of the English translation ("Isolation, selection and propagation of animal transgenic stem cells"). The patent protected a genetic engineering process with which stem cells could be isolated and multiplied. This patent caused protests throughout Europe due to a translation error. The English version was incorrect because it included the cultivation of human stem cells. Claim 48 stated:

German: " Verfahren zur Herstellung eines transgenen Tieres ..."

English translation: "A method of preparing a transgenic animal

According to English scientific usage, the word "animal" includes humans whereas the German word “Tiere” only applies to animals without including humans. This patent has since been rectified.


Requirements for patent translations

This clearly shows that knowledge of the special linguistic requirements for patent translations is crucial. These linguistic requirements may differ for each patent classification.

A good knowledge of the respective legal systems is required for the translation of claims. For example, the passive voice, which is often used in German claims ("substances are being mixed") is not accepted in American claims and is replaced by positive formulations.

Certain terms are also expected in the translation. In American patent claims, activities are translated as "steps".

In addition to knowledge of the respective legal systems and certain legal skills, the translator is expected to have very good specialist knowledge. Formal rules must also be observed in the structure of the patent translation, such as Rules 46 and 49 EPC.


Translator selection

In addition to knowledge of the special features of patent translations, the translator is naturally also expected to possess in-depth technical expertise because patents deal with inventions, which are products and processes that are not yet known on the market in this form. For this reason, we mainly use engineers, biologists and scientists who have specialized in patent translations and have many years of translation experience.

Patent translations are carefully revised by us to ensure that the translation is correct in terms of language, form and content. We go beyond the usual procedures of our ISO 17100 certification. Among other things, we carefully check that the layout of the translations corresponds exactly to the guidelines of the European Patent Office.



Terminology plays an important role in patent translations. We take great care to ensure that terminology is used consistently in our translations. For regular customers, we compile special domain terminology in our terminology management system LookUp and check its consistent compliance with our quality assurance software ErrorSpy. We research new terms in relevant literature, reference documents or public sources such as the terminology portal of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization).


Our services at a glance:

We translate patents and claims in the following fields:

  • Electrical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Measurement and control technology
  • Telecommunications
  • IT, computer science, software development
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine and medical technology
  • Pharmacy
  • Biology and molecular biology

On request, we also take care of the certification of patent translations as well as the layout creation and editing of patent drawings.

Last but not least: We contractually guarantee complete confidentiality of all information relating to your patent translation project and have appropriate measures and procedures in place to ensure that all staff involved adhere to this.



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