Do YOU understand Welsh?

Further to his recent post regarding the proposed new Patents Rules, the IPKat has been considering what the effect would be of allowing patent applications to be prosecuted and granted in Welsh as an alternative to English.

A study by the Office for National Statistics based on the 2001 national census (study available here) has revealed some interesting figures about the proportion of people in Wales who understand written Welsh. Out of a sample size of 2,805,701, only 20% stated that they could read Welsh. When broken down into regions, Newport came bottom of the list with only 9% understanding written Welsh (Anglesey came top with 54%).

So, the IPKat now asks, does it make any sense at all to allow patent applications to be prosecuted and granted in Welsh? Would this be fairer to those who only understand Welsh and want to avoid having to translate? Would it be fair to the rest of us in the UK (i.e. the vast majority) to allow patents to be granted that we cannot understand, particularly when there is still a requirement for applications in any other language to be translated into English before protection is allowed in the UK? Anyone wishing to take part in the consultation process might like to consider these questions.
Do YOU understand Welsh? Do YOU understand Welsh? Reviewed by David Pearce on Monday, March 19, 2007 Rating: 5


  1. The Patent Office (Y Swyddfa Batentau) is located in an area now designated as Wales. It must therefore conform with the requirements of the Welsh Language Act 1993. Newport (Casenwydd-ar-Wysg) used to be in Monmouthshire which changed from being part of England to part of Wales on a century by century basis. Legislative changes, regretted by many inhabitants, made the area permanently Welsh. However they insist on speaking English.

  2. As far as I can find out, the Welsh Language Board has made no recommendation regarding patents under the Welsh Language Act. The Act does not require that these changes are made to the Patents Rules.

  3. Hold on. Is the Office saying that applications filed in Welsh will be granted in Welsh ? Or is it simply saying that the burden of English translation will fall to the Office rather than applicant ?

    I think we should be told, before everyone lets rip. Look, just because England took a heck of a beating yesterday in the six nations, there's no need to take it out on the poor old Office.

  4. That's the puzzle. I presume that patents will in reality continue to be only validly granted in English, but I can't see where in the new Rules it says that a translation into English from Welsh must be filed before grant takes effect. If the Patent Office is offering to do the translations themselves, that's very nice of them but shouldn't there be some mention of this in the Rules, or at the very least in the consultation document?

  5. Being a Welsh-speaking Patent Attorney I contacted the Patent Office years ago to ask them how they'd deal with a patent application in Welsh only to be met by stunned (English, presumably) silence.

  6. Being a patent attorney, you will know that a patent application filed in Welsh would at present be dealt with like any other non-English application, i.e. the Office will notify the applicant that a translation should be filed within 2 months (Rules 16(5)&(6)). This seems entirely sensible to me, as the applicant does not lose the filing date (provided he has left enough information to be contacted on) and the application will proceed like any other after the translation has been filed.

  7. Just following up on this and later posts, and also your recent poll, you may be interested in the following response to an enquiry I made to UKIPO, regarding how Welsh patent applications would be processed:

    "I can confirm that we would translate the documents making up the application and any correspondence relating to the application, regardless of the length and content of the application. We would publish both the English and Welsh versions under s.16."

    The lady in charge of the Welsh Language scheme also confirmed that, in any inter partes proceedings where one party wished to use Welsh, the UKIPO would (given sufficient notice) provide interpreters.

    so looks like UKIPO are prepared to bear the burden of compliance with the Welsh Language Act themselves.


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