How many languages for European patents? Peer-to-patent posts again

How many languages should the European patent be in? This was the question for a recent IPKat poll. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the favourite answer was "only one". Unfortunately it is not possible to trace the origins or the identities of respondents to this anonymised survey, but the IPKat has a shrewd suspicion that the majority consists primarily of people having one or more of the following characteristics: (i) they are from outside Europe, derive most of their income from outside Europe and regard protection in that continent as a necessary evil on which the least amount possible should be spent; (ii) people who operate in one or more of the three official European Patent Office languages and (iii) people whose work lies in industrial sectors involving telecomms, software etc where most patents are not read other than for the one-off purpose of establishing industry standards.

What is notable is how many people still want translation of the full patent - or at least the claims - into the language of every European jurisdiction in which a patent takes effect.

Left: a new generation of Pollyglot Europeans is agitating for a streamlined language policy (listen here to Polly speaking Esperanto)

Combined, this group actually outweighs the "only one" group. This, says Merpel, indicates that there are still many people - academics, researchers and those who work in so-called minority languages - for whom the disclosure of an invention in a patent application is a valuable source of learning.

Peer-to-patent posts again. According to his latest information, Peer-to-Patent has posted a further seven pending United States patent applications for review by interested parties. This latest batch covers inventions in such diverse fields as

* detecting browser-based exploits
* progress indicators for program execution
* managing storage system performance as a resource
* clinical decision support for doctors
* selection of optimal executable code for a system
* drag-and-drop functionality
* crossbar arithmetic processor.
The IPKat, suppressing any gut reactions as to where he'd like to drag and drop the penultimate item on the list, urges all suitably qualified readers to participate in this experiment.

Right: IPKat team blogger Jeremy remembers his own experience of a "crossbar arithmetic processor" ...
How many languages for European patents? Peer-to-patent posts again How many languages for European patents? Peer-to-patent posts again Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, October 24, 2007 Rating: 5


  1. Maybe you should write this pool in Hungarian in order to get rid of the english biais?

  2. The point of the patent system is supposed to be that you get a monopoly in exchange for providing a disclosure. If you apply for a patent in one country, you don't need a new invention to get a patent in a second country - you can apply for another patent for the same invention. You don't even have to write a new specification - you can simply translate the old one into the local language. If you aren't even prepared to do that, then what the heck do you think you have provided that would justify you getting a monopoly?

    Worse still, if the claims are not translated, then people are not even told in their own language what it is they are not allowed to do. Is it fair to be sued for patent infringement (and get a criminal record, if some posters have their way) when you haven't even been told in your own language you can't make that?

  3. Hi, Anonymous

    I suspect you'll be given answers citing the number of translations of European Patents that are actually ever reviewed, versus the cost of preparing the translation.

    Will that make a difference to your view? I hope not. Nobody is forcing patentees to seek protection in any given jurisdiction (although, admittedly, free movement makes life difficult if they don't). They do so because there is a benefit to them of doing so. And you don't get something for nothing.

    Merpel, I agree that there are many people - academics, researchers and those who work in so-called minority languages - who prefer the status quo. But please don't forget the people who don't fall into any of those categories, but who just think that, when introducing a constraint against the activities of a people, it's courteous to do it in their language.

    Anglophone Patent Attorney


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