The bad old days

Doing some badly needed housekeeping on the Patent Translations web site, I went over one of the reports that we have long linked to, the “Guide to Japan’s Patent System” put out by the Japan Information Access Project back in 1995. A lot of it is still useful, but it’s nice to see there have at least been some changes in the area of translation.

Here’s what the guide said:

Patent applications must be filed in Japanese, and there is little room for correction. Translations are costly and must be performed according to a set fee schedule established by Japan’s patent attorneys. Translation can also be time consuming. If U.S. patent applicants do not factor in the time for translation in their understanding of Japan’s filing schedule, the need for a translation may cause the applicant to miss deadlines and leave open opportunities to challenges to their grant. Although new agreements will allow filings in English, deadlines remain for a Japanese translation and corrections can only be offered at prescribed times.

Nowadays, of course, you have a 60-day grace period for filing the Japanese translation, which is ample time to translate anything other than perhaps a real telephone book style biotech patent.

The other big change is that US filers have finally started going to specialist translation agencies for translations, usually meaning a better translation at half the price. That has caused Japanese patent law firms to get slightly less greedy with their translation charges. Though, I must admit, I saw one just today asking 60 cents a word. I am amazed the web page itself did not blush, considering that these same Japanese law firms are notorious for refusing to pay E>J translators more than 10 cents per word. Ah, well. The ratio of people who have figured things can only continue to increase.

Martin Cross
Japanese Patent Translation


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