Google to Help Translate European Patents

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Google just announced that they now have an agreement with the European patent office to translate patents. According to the International Business Times, Google will use their automatic translation software to translate patents into 29 EU languages.

This is important news because the EU has been trying to implement a standard patent system for all of its member nations but thus far, translation disputes have kept that from happening. The original proposal called for patent documents to be translated into English, French and German only. Naturally, this left Italy and Spain feeling somewhat neglected.

Since the patent process has not been standardized, according to the International Business Times it actually costs businesses about 10 times as  much to patent an idea in the EU  as it does in the US. Per European Patent Office president Benoit Battistelli, the agreement with Google will hopefully make the proposal more acceptable to the countries that have so far refused to accept it:

“The deal is a kind of compensation for those countries so they can accept the idea that for economic reasons it’s necessary to choose only a few languages and not to use all of them.”

Unfortunately, but perhaps understandably given the limitations of machine translation, at least one Italian representative remains unconvinced. Here’s a quote from Sergio Dompe, chairman of the Italian Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers:

“Anything that brings the cost of innovation down is very welcome. On the other hand, I fear there are too many lawyers involved in the patent field for automatic translations to be granted legal value anytime soon.”

Google, meanwhile, reportedly looks at the agreement as an opportunity to improve the accuracy of its translation software by acquiring access to new translated material to train its algorithm.