Category: News

Translating for Legal Evidence

The Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS) and Seattle court interpreters will be hosting a day of workshops and panels on October 4th (first Sunday after International Translation Day) and have been kind enough to ask me to speak on translating for legal evidence.

Evidentiary translation is an area in which translation (written) and interpretation (spoken) converge. As differs from localization, where the goal is often to start with a source text and make something new that fits the target culture, and literary translation, where creativity is almost as important as understanding, both court interpreting and translations for legal evidence require an exact and accurate reproduction of all the content, without embellishment or modification. A court interpreter cannot speak for the witness or offer their own interpretation of the facts. The Washington State courts say:

“A language interpreter shall interpret or translate the material thoroughly and precisely, adding or omitting nothing, and stating as nearly as possible what has been stated in the language of the speaker, giving consideration to variations in grammar and syntax for both languages involved. A language interpreter shall use the level of communication that best conveys the meaning of the source, and shall not interject the interpreters personal moods or attitudes.”

General Rule 11.2 Code of Conduct for Court Interpreters

Because attorneys with less experience in this field tend to assume that every translation they work with will satisfy the rules of evidence and non-specialized translators tend to assume that they should polish, clarify, and edit the text of every translation they work on, it is not uncommon for both to be unpleasantly surprised.

My talk will present best practices for working on evidentiary translations and cover a set of guidelines (recently outlined by Françoise Herrmann in the Translation Journal) and a method known as “conservation of lexemes,” which can be used to produce and evaluate translations for evidence.

The exact time of the workshop as well as the details of other presentations will be posted soon at:


Best Practices in Translations for Legal Evidence: How to Protect Yourself and Your Clients

Two years ago we started on a new edition of the ATA Patent Translator’s Handbook. While that project is still cooking, in the process of writing one of the chapters, I realized that much of the advice we were planning to give to patent translators could be used by anyone working on evidentiary translations. The ATA Chronicle was recently kind enough to publish it, and you can find a copy here.

I wrote the article for translators but legal professionals who work with translations should also know what is in play in this special type of translation, including guidelines for certification, communication policies and the role of existing translations.

If you are interested in a more technical description of the requirements and processes for patent translation, please see the book chapter that I wrote on the subject.


It’s official. I will have the pleasure of presenting at this year’s International Japanese English Translation (IJET) Conference in our home town of Seattle.

I am particularly looking forward to this, as this will be the first time that I will do a presentation with someone else, as a team effort. My partner is Masa Kajiki, who runs MK Translation Firm in Osaka, and is an exceptionally talented translator in his own right.

The presentation is called: Beyond Translation for Information: How to Become Indispensable in J to E Patent Translation for Filing and Litigation, and the blurb reads as follows.

“This seminar will explain what US and Japanese attorneys are looking for in both translations for filing and translations for litigation support. We will present a methodology for meeting the requirements of literal translation, as well as strategies for dealing with particularly difficult constructions in translations for filing, which are rarely seen outside of the patent field.

The session will include a short workshop, in which attendees will be asked to try their hands at some classic J>E patent translation stumpers and evaluate the possible solutions. People are also invited to email us in advance ( with difficult phrases and patent-specific terms that they would like to see discussed.

This session is best suited for translators who already have some experience in the field of patents or who have attended seminars covering the basics of patent translation in the past.”


Sorry for the acronym string. I couldn’t resist.

MIP (Managing Intellectual Property) is a trade journal out of London that does a good job of providing global coverage. They have a free newsletter called MIP Week, which is perfect for people like me, who want to stay abreast but are too cheap and lazy to read the whole magazine.

Yesterday they had more on a story that they originally reported in April — specifically, a translation breakthrough for Community Patents. The idea is to start granting European patents, without demanding that applicants provide translations into all 23 official languages. People wanting to read the patent could then use a proposed MT (machine translation) system. Interestingly, MIP reports that the translations would have no legal value, and that for the 1% of patents that are litigated (man, that’s a lot of litigated patents) human translations would prevail.

I can certainly imagine some juicy courtroom arguments when they start litigating patents without predetermined translations. It also makes me wonder about enforcement. If I spent money developing something that my research (reading MTed patents at the EPO) told me is not protected, and then I got sued for infringement because it turns out the MT translation was inaccurate, I would certainly feel mistreated. If my due diligence is expected to extend to procuring an accurate translation by myself, then the EPO is transferring translation costs to industry. If, on the other hand, due diligence doesn’t extend that far, why should I be penalized?

In any case, it should be fun. It makes me wish I were a European legal translator.

ATA Patent Translator’s Handbook



v Preface
vii Introduction
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3 Approaches to Patent Translation: Many Ways to Build a Mousetrap Kirk Anderson
11 An Introduction to Patent Translation Nicholas Hartmann
19 Literal Translation of Patents Martin Cross
29 Industrial Property Considerations for Patent Translators R. Vivanco Cohn
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41 Internet Resources for the Translation of Patents Into English Steve Vlasta Vitek
49 Developing a Lean, Mean Patent Translation Memory Suzanne Friis Gagliardi
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57 Managing Patent Litigation Projects Alison Carroll and Lillian Clementi
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75 Translating Biotech Patents Alice M. Berglund
85 Intellectual Property and Biotechnology Patents Patricia Thickstun
97 Translating Automotive Patents Gabe Bokor
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115 Live and Learn: Lessons from a Veteran Patent Translation
Team: An interview with Jan McLin Clayberg and Olaf Bexhoeft
Conducted bv Alison Carroll and Lillian Clementi
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119 Glossary of Patent Terms Martin Cross
129 German-English Glossary of “Patentese” Jan McLin Clayberg
135 Biotechnology Glossary for Patent Translators Patricia Thickstun
151 Index

After a lot of hard work, especially on the part of Alison Carroll, our editor, The Patent Translator’s Handbook is now on sale. The book is a compendium of knowledge by some of the world’s most experienced and knowledgeable patent translators and translation managers and includes an introduction by a patent attorney who is also a translator.

Although there are a number of books written in Japanese on the subject of patent translation, and the ATA publishes the Japanese Patent Translation Handbook, which is written in English, The Patent Translator’s Handbook is the first book written in English on the subjection of patent translation from all languages into English. A number of the contributors translate from German and there are even some German-English glossaries, but the book’s authors also translate from French, Japanese and Spanish and the chapters are written with translators of any language in mind.

The book is, first and foremost, a how-to guide for patent translators, with ample introductory information for the novice, but it also provides a formal definition of literal translation in the context of patents and a methodology for producing and evaluating translations according to this methodology. We can expect this to become a touchstone for law firms that manage their own translation and a reference in litigation where translation is an issue. There is also a chapter on managing translation for litigation, which every patent paralegal who works on multinational cases should read. In fact, I have already had calls from a few large law firms asking where they could buy a copy.

To answer that question, the best way is to order it online from the ATA. If you are wary of entering your credit card information online, you can also call the ATA at 03-683-6100.

My own chapter, which is on literal translation, can be viewed online in the Resources section of the Patent Translations Inc. web site. I also contributed the glossary of patent terminology, and I hope to make that available online soon.

I am planning to blog in more detail about the individual sections and chapters but, for the moment, I’ll just post the table of contents to pique your interest — assuming that you are the sort of person whose interest is piqued by this sort of thing.