Trying Work

Recently I’ve been translating a lot of litigation support stuff. Usually, when you say those words in translation circles, the images that come to mind are of boxes containing ten thousand pages of handwritten discovery documents that need to be translated in two days. What I am doing this time is a little different. I’m translating demands for trials, briefs, petitions and opinions for patent litigation that is being conducted in Japanese on behalf of English speaking people who need to keep up to speed with the trial and give their input. It’s fun.

For one thing, you get to watch the law in action. I write and present quite a bit on how to go about producing exact translations of patents and why conserving word choice is essential. I meet with a certain amount of skepticism and resistance from people who either do not believe that word choice can be translated, or who cannot believe that word choice really matters that much. They have obviously never followed a patent trial. It’s all about the words. And watching a trial unfold makes the reasons for the word choices by the drafting attorneys come alive.

The other thing is that it is easy. I translate a lot of Japanese office actions. Perhaps out of a desire to save ink at the JPO, examiners write their reasons for rejection in staccato verse, referencing bits and pieces of the application and and prior art and snippets of the law without explanation or elaboration. The poor translator, much like the poor applicant, has to hunt through the cited references, the Patent Law and JPO examination guidelines to understand what is being said. It’s time consuming and, for the most part, boring. Odd, but there is no passion in an patent examiner’s writing style. Trial documents are another story.

Literally. The thing is that they actually do tell a story, and the attorneys are at pains to make that story as engaging and convincing as possible. One thought leads to another. Themes are repeated and amplified. There is logical and narrative consistency. OK, it’s not Shakespeare and I admit that I should probably get a life, but if I have to sit there reading and reproducing text eight hours a day, it’s nice when it’s well written text.

Martin Cross
Japanese Patent Translation

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