Translating a Patent: Translator's Templates (Part I: The Cover Page) Patent Translations translation jobs
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Translating a Patent: Translator's Templates (Part I: The Cover Page)

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Part I: The Cover Page

The object of the following article is to provide English templates of the cover page of German patents with explanatory text of the purpose of each section. The historical approach that I have applied is intended to highlight step by step two aspects: 1) the amount of information that has been added over time, and 2) the importance of this information for the translator, who possesses the skill and knowledge to take advantage of common data available to everyone. For this reason, this article should be read together with the referenced patents. The original documents and my own English translation can be viewed by clicking on the respective links. My next article discusses the translation of the patent itself, including the specification and the claims.

The layout and content are not always fully appreciated as the key source for terminology research.
A patent is a complex document comprising several parts: a specification, claims, and optionally drawings. The bibliographic information, which precedes the patent document itself, may be just a few lines as in earlier patents or a complete page as in the current patents. It provides facts and identifying elements. For those translators who are unfamiliar with patents, the cover may appear to be confusing and difficult to translate. Even for those who have worked with patents the layout and content are not always fully appreciated as the key source for terminology research.

To demonstrate the hidden resources that can be uncovered in even scanty bibliographic data, my first example (Example 1) is a 1931 German patent (for the German original see German1 and for its translation see English1). At the top of the page is the name of the country, followed by the office publishing the document. The prominent line in extra large type indicates the kind of publication (e.g. Patent). The next bold type information is the number of the patent, followed by the class and group. Just above the line is the date of publication. Below the line is the name of the applicant, followed by the title: Wärmeaustauchapparat mit im Mantel angebrachten Röhrenbündel und zwischen Querplatten befestigten seitlichen Leitflächen. The next line is related German application data, indicating that the current patent is an addition to an earlier patent. Finally the last section gives data about the foreseeable expiration of both the current patent and the parent patent.

Working on the basis of the above information, the first step is to search a patent database, like the European Patent Office (EPO) at for an expanded list of bibliographic data. From the beginning, it is clear that an electronic database will not reach as far back in time as 1931 to produce translations of the patent in question or its parent. However, a number search does yield the publication number, date, applicant, the application number, the priority numbers, and the International and European classification. This list is short enough to be convincing that if there is any additional information to be found, it will be through the classification number—F28F9/22. Clicking on this number reveals that F28 covers "heat exchange in general"; F28F, "details of heat-exchange and heat-transfer apparatus, of general application"; F28F9/22, "arrangement for directing heat-exchange media into successive compartments, e.g. arrangements of guide plates".

The next step in this method that treats the database as an onion to be dissected layer by layer is to return to the original EPO page and to look at the two lines above the bibliographic data—cited documents (i.e. the documents that are cited in the German patent) and citing document (i.e. the documents that the German patent cites). Given the date of the patent, the citing documents will offer more information than the cited ones. In this case there are two with the IPC: F28F9/22. The first one is a WIPO patent WO2008071726: Assembly of Baffles and Seals and Method of Assembling a Heat Exchanger; and the second is a US patent 2493669: Heat Exchanger. Obviously the latter one will not only provide the terminology for the patent to be translated, but also a discussion of the field of the invention and perhaps some discussion about the prior art, including the 1931 patent.

A jump of 30 years finds the German Patent Office in another era, in which there are additional types of publications, like the Auslegeschrift in Example 2 (for the German original see German2 and for its translation see English2). The Auslegeschrift, which ceased to exist around 1981, is the second reading or publication of a patent application that has been examined and published. Like the 1931 Reich patent, the information is essentially the same, but the layout differs. On the top line is the country name: Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland), followed by the publishing office (Deutsches Patentamt). On the extreme right is the German class (Deutsche Kl.). The centered information gives the name (Auslegeschrift) and number of the document. At the left hand margin organized as a list is the number (Nummer), the application number (Aktenzeichen), the filing date (Anmeldetag) and the disclosure date (Auslegetag). Under the line is the name of the applicant (Anmelder), and below that is the inventor (Erfinder). The last centered line before the specification is the title: Elektrischer Durchlauferhitzer. A repeat of the above search will offer the useful information that its class F24H1 relates to "fluid heaters, e.g. water or air heaters, having heat generating means". However, the bibliographic section of cited/citing documents yields only two DE's and one CH, none of which produces an English abstract. In this case it would be advisable to try another layer of the database—this time the advanced search, which permits keywords in the title or abstract or the name of the inventor and the applicant or the ECLA or IPC number to be entered. It turns out that a combination of siemens electrogerate, as the applicant, and walter feld, as the inventor, produces the US patent 3247359 with the IPC number F24H1 that was granted to Walter Feld and Siemens Elektrogeraete GmbH in 1966. Not surprisingly the title reads "Electric Instantaneous Water Heater". Having identified the English language version of the device patented in Germany, the translator can mine it for general knowledge in the field, for emulating the writing style and for incorporating the terminology, used specifically by Siemens.

As the number of patent applications have increased over time and the issue of compatibility addressed through treaties and agreements (for detailed information on European intellectual property law see, for example, Pagenberg, Concise Patent Law), the layout and content of the cover page have also changed. Every section now includes a code number—INID, which is an acronym for "Internationally agreed Numbers for the Identification of bibliographic Data"—for the purpose of facilitating the work of any patent office in the world. For the translator, who is aware of the definitions, the INID offers the relevant terminology required for translating the cover page, as for example, with respect to the 1987 Austrian patent (Example 3). The number in parentheses, which is found adjacent to each item on the cover page, refers to a specific field. For ease of comprehension these numbers are reproduced, as printed on the original Patentschrift (once again, for the German original see German3 and for its translation see English3), followed by the agreed upon INID definition in the form of an explanatory note.

(19) Republik Österreich Patentamt
Identification of the office or organization publishing the document

(11) Nummer
Number of the patent

(12) Patentschrift
Plain language designation of the kind of document

(21) Anmeldenummer
Number assigned to the application

(22) Anmeldetag
Filing date of the application

(42) Beginn der Patentdauer
Date from which the patent is in force until it expires

(45) Ausgabetag
Date on which the patent was issued

(51) Int. Cl.
International classification code or International Patent Classification IPC

Priority data, showing the date filed, the country in which it was filed and the application number in that country.

List of prior art documents

(73) Patentinhaber
Name of the patent holder and place of business

(72) Erfinder
Name of the inventor

(54) Bezeichnung
Title of the patent

which is a short description of the invention; or claim

Given the fact that the INID code constitutes a standard that is used by all patent offices in order to improve the access to patent related information, the Office for Inventions and Patents of the German Democratic Republic found no need to supply the definitions and avoided redundancy by dispensing with the definitions altogether. One glance at the attached example—Economic Patent DD 271997 A3 from 1989 (for the German original see German4 and for its translation see English4)will demonstrate that the code alone constitutes the road map to understanding the names, dates, and numbers.

Irrespective of whether the cover page shows the definitions, it is self evident that a translation of the bibliographic data of a patent—for example, in the correspondence between the patent office and the applicant—must reflect the definitions established by the standard, because this standard forms the basis of the linguistic framework for the patenting procedure and, hence, constitutes the vocabulary used by the applicant, patentee, licensee, competitors, attorneys, judges—in short, anyone in the field of industrial property protection. For example, whenever the German term Patentanmeldung appears, it should be translated as patent application; Anmeldenummer, as application number; Anmeldetag, filing date; Anmelder, applicant; Veröffentlichungstag or Offenlegungstag, disclosure date; Erfinder, inventor; Bezeichnung, title; etc.

The next two templates for the translator's toolbox are not national, but rather supra-national in nature. Example 5—EP 0 924 505 A2shows a European patent application (for the German original see German5 and for its translation see English5), subject to the European patent grant procedure in accordance with the European Patent Convention and subject to the Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office. Example 6—WO 2007/009640 A1—shows the international patent, granted in accordance with the Patent Cooperation Treaty, known as PCT. Both of them constitute alternatives to filing a patent directly with the DPMA (German Patent and Trademark Office), the Office of Inventions and Patents, Austrian or Swiss Patent Office and, being faster and cheaper as well as broader in the scope of protection, have become very popular. Therefore, it is advisable for the patent translator's in-box to contain a template of their cover pages.

Even if the growing number of European and PCT patents alone would be adequate grounds for justifying their inclusion in a patent discussion, the next two examples are of special interest to the linguist from the point of view of the pre-translated abstract. When the cover page and/or bibliographic data supply an English title and/or English abstract, both the title and the abstract are usually regarded as the "official" translation. As a rule, the translator reproduces this official translation on the translated cover page and then selects from the title/abstract the keywords that make up the glossary of terms for the specification. In the case of the European patent application, a number search produces such a pre-translation, but it is drafted so poorly that it leaves the translator in the position of having to decide whether to "accept" such phrases as "course of bubble radius" and "the course over time" or to continue searching for the proper phrase—for example, "time dependent variation of the bubble radius". The decision could go two ways. On the one hand, the translator could justify the use of the English term course (German Verlauf) by merely pointing to the pre-translation; on the other hand, there is an obligation to the client, if not the translation profession, to "correct" such usage, especially if one is fully aware of the difference in meaning. In particular, given the ease with which electronic search machines can be employed to find precise translations, the latter would appear to be a trivial task. This illusion is supported all the more by the plethora of bibliographic information on the EP cover page that gives the impression that the closest prior art is just a key stroke away. However, when put to the test, this theory did not hold; instead my experience demonstrated exactly the opposite—everything proved to be tangential. Without delving into all of the results of informative, but less than optimal searches, starting from the patent number and related documents, let it suffice to say for the sake of brevity that a general Internet search on the category (74) the attorney Ilberg et al. produced a lead to the one document that described in detail the field and the background art of the tensiometer device and the maximum bubble pressure method while at the same time helped with the style and language of the application to be translated.

If Example 5 may be considered to be a worst case scenario, then the last template (Example 6) is certainly a best case scenario. It is an international patent application (for the German original see German6 and for its translation see English6), filed pursuant to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (nach dem Vertrag über die internationale Zusammenarbeit auf dem Gebiet des Patentwesens (PCT) veröffentlichte internationale Anmeldung) (12), at the World Intellectual Property Organization (Weltorganisation für geistiges Eigentum Internationales Büro) (19). Above the line is also (43) the international publication date (Internationales Veröffentlichungsdatum) and (10) the international publication number (Internationales Veröffentlichungsnummer). Below the line on the left hand side the INID-based data include the subset:

(51) Internationale Patentklassifikation
International patent classification

(21) Internationales Aktenzeichen
International application number

(22) Internationales Anmeldedatum
International filing date

(25) Einreichungssprache
Language of submission

(26) Veröffentlichungsnummer
Language of publication

(30)Angaben zur Priorität
Priority data

(71)Anmelder (für alle Bestimmungsstaaten mit Ausnahme von US)
Applicant (for all designated states, except the U.S.)

(72) Erfinder
Inventor; and

(75) Erfinder/Anmelder (nur für US)
Inventor/applicant (only for the U.S.)

(74) Gemeinsamer Vertreter
Joint attorney

(81) Bestimmungsstaaten (soweit nicht anders angegeben, für jede verfügbare nationale Schutzrechtsart
Designated states (unless stated otherwise, for any kind of protection available under national law)

(84) Bestimmungsstaaten (soweit nicht anders angegeben, für jede verfügbare regionale Schutzrechtsart
Designated states (unless stated otherwise, for any kind of protection available under the regional law):

(54) Bezeichnung

Abstract (which is also in English)

The power of the above list will be greatly appreciated by the translator, as soon as he finds that the effect of his search is an English version of the cover page at A further step, entailing a number search at, discloses under the bibliographic data that this PCT was also published as US2008296004 with the title "Wound Heat Exchanger with Anti-Drumming Walls" (see original at, which is almost identical to the German PCT. Having ascertained that there is, indeed, a US filing, the translator may rightly ask, why did the client request a translation of the PCT? And the answer is probably—the client assumes that the translator automatically conducts such searches and, having found the US patent, will use it as the basis of the "translation." In other words, the client is expecting a translation that highlights the differences.

In the next article I shall discuss how to translate a patent in terms of converting it into a template or in patent jargon—how to reduce it to practice.

See also: Part II: The Specification

Published - January 2010

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