“The importance of translations in the patent system and in other types of industrial property” was the title chosen for the online presentation given by the founding partner and director of ABG Intellectual Property, Juan Arias, on 16 March to more than 50 translators and interpreters from European institutions.
Participants in the conference, organised by the Spanish Language Department of the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission, also included the department manager, Mr José Luis Vega Expósito, the department quality coordinator, Mr Alberto Rivas Yanes, as well as Ms Almudena Fernández Pérez, a public official from the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, who is today considered a national expert in the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission.
Juan Arias began his lecture by making a basic clarification but one that is a common source of error: “In Spanish, “propiedad intelectual” (intellectual property) refers to copyrights while “propiedad industrial” (industrial property) refers to patents, trademarks and designs. However, in English the term “intellectual property” does in fact encompass copyrights as well as patents, trademarks and designs.”
Languages in the European patent system
After explaining the differences amongst the various types of legal protection for industrial property, Arias then went on to discuss the European patent system, stating that “There are currently 38 countries that are part of the European patent system, and to obtain a grant a single application is filed with the European Patent Office (EPO).”
The official languages in the EPO, however, are English, French and German, and as the former EPO examiner and European patent attorney explained, even though the application can be filed in other languages, it must be translated into one of the three official languages without any technical additions.
“The content of a patent application is, at the same time, both technical and legal. It is therefore essential for patent translators to be specialised in the field of the invention. In this regard, in the event that any inaccuracies were to exist, the document in the language used in the proceeding before the EPO will be the one that is legally enforced.”
The importance of translations in European patents and trademarks
After prosecution, when the EPO communicates the intention to grant the European patent, the applicant must submit a translation of the claims into the other two official EPO languages (generally French and German).
As for interpretation needs, Juan Arias also asserted that “in opposition and appeal proceedings, it is quite common for English, German and French to be used interchangeably in oral proceedings. In those cases, if requested by any of the parties, the EPO will provide simultaneous interpretation from one official language to another. This type of interpretation is extremely exacting given that very complex technical matters are discussed.”
Having said that, for the granted European patent to be valid in the designated countries it must be registered in the corresponding national office, known in the industry as the validation process. Each of those offices establishes its own criteria for defining the procedure and in many cases a translation into the official language of the country must be submitted.
“Most Member States of the European patent system require a translation, be it of just the claims or of the entire application, as occurs in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Greece and most Eastern European countries,” Mr Arias stated.
Unlike patents, in the case of trademarks, the registration and grant institution does in fact belong to the European Union (EU Intellectual Property Office, EUIPO) and protects distinctive signs in 27 countries through a single procedure. To file an application, any of the 23 official EU languages can be used, but the applicant must choose a second language from among the five official EUIPO languages, that is, English, Spanish, German, French and Italian.
We at ABG Intellectual Property would like to thank the Spanish Language Department of the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission for having organised this meeting. For us, it is undoubtedly an honour to have had the opportunity to discuss the industrial property system with translators and interpreters from EU institutions, and we hope that the lecture has been interesting and rewarding.