The language barrier when searching and understanding prior art


Marianne Holme

There is high demand for better translation tools to improve the understanding of prior patent art in languages other than the official languages of the European Patent Office.

On September 4, the EPO and the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) signed a mutual agreement in order to make China’s prior art documentation more easily available for patent searching by building improved English-Chinese and Chinese-English dictionaries to be used for machine translation.

There are numerous Chinese patent and utility models that may constitute prior art relevant to the patentability of many inventions. However, the language of the prior art often becomes a barrier to the patent attorney, the applicant and even to the patent examiner, who needs to understand the content of such a Chinese-worded document in order to advise, evaluate infringement of patent, make decisions, make searches and issue communications.

So the relevance of such prior art can be difficult to establish and therefore many Chinese patent documents are ignored not only when making prior art searches before filing patent applications and during examination of the application, but also when starting production in China and when putting products on the Chinese market.

Prior art, translation