First with the news, Managing Intellectual Property magazine reported yesterday that the EU Competitiveness Council is meeting on 29 and 30 May to discuss progress on technical issues relating to the fabled Community patent. Previous attempts to clinch agreement on the Community patent, which would provide a single unitary right covering the territory of all 27 EU member states, have foundered due to concerns over language, cost and court proceedings. With 23 official languages, a patent filed in any of those languages currently needs to be translated at great expense if country-by-country pan-European protection is sought, which is why most applicants cherry-pick the key jurisdictions and omit many of the minor ones. The latest plans however seek to employ machine translations, which are already available for German, Spanish and French at the European Patent Office.
These plans were previously discussed at meetings of an EU Council working party under the Slovenian Presidency, which expires at the end of June. The translation tools would include databases of several million standardised technical terms, which would be translated into all EU languages. The machines are capable of delivering translations in about 45 seconds. Under the draft plans, machine translations would be provided for all 23 languages, ensuring equal treatment. However, setting up the translations would take several years and cost at least €2 million. Existing technology would also need an upgrade. Machine translations would be for information purposes and would have no legal status. For the estimated 1% of patents that are litigated in infringement proceedings or the like, human translations would be needed. A working document with full details of the proposal is due to be published in a couple of weeks, in time for the Competitiveness Council meeting at the end of the month.
The IPKat looks forward to the new game of Community Patent Whispers. You take a claim, feed it into the translation machine for the first official language (taking them in alphabetical order); when you get the output, you feed it in for translation into the second, and vice versa. When the claim has been through each official language once, you put it before an EPO Board of Appeal and ask them to interpret it. Merpel says, my favourite term in European patent law is the phrase "as such". If you translate it from English to Dutch, Dutch to French, French to German and then German to English you get "ash look for".