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Translating patents with the European Patent Office

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 | 10:28 AM

Last March, we signed an agreement with the European Patent Office (EPO) to break down linguistic barriers and improve the machine translation of patents. Today, we’ve released an update to our Google Translate system that incorporates the EPO’s parallel patent texts and allows translation between English and French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Swedish.

This improved system is now part of the EPO’s Espacenet service, and goes under the name Patent Translate. Espacenet provides free access to millions of patent documents worldwide - and its users can use Patent Translate to read patents from around the world in their own language. Here’s a video that shows how it works:



Using the EPO’s parallel texts, we’ve been able to improve our ability to translate patents, as the following examples show:

Polymerisable ink

  • Source: une tête d'impression pour diriger une encre polymérisable par rayonnement vers un substrat reçu sur le support
  • Old translation: a print head to direct a radiation curable ink to a substrate on the support received
  • New translation: a print head for directing radiation polymerisable ink to a substrate received on the support
Ultrasonic vibration
  • Source: The crystals supply the required ultrasonic vibration needed to drive both the horn and the attached cutting tip during phacoemulsification and are controlled by the console.
  • Old translation: I cristalli di fornire la vibrazione necessaria ad ultrasuoni necessari per guidare sia il corno e la punta di sezionamento annesso durante facoemulsificazione e sono controllati dalla console.
  • New translation: I cristalli forniscono la vibrazione ultrasonica richiesta necessaria per pilotare sia il corno e la punta da taglio allegata durante la facoemulsificazione e sono controllati dalla console.
We share a similar vision to the EPO, that machine translation can help to overcome language barriers - and help to make the information contained in patents universally accessible and useful. While the improved system is pretty good, machine translation is a challenging computer science problem and does not always deliver perfect results. But it can be a very useful way for people to search and read patents that aren’t written in their language.

We’re excited to continue our collaboration with the EPO. We look forward to adding more languages - and showing how this public-private partnership will further improve access to patents for people around the world.