6 February 2012
In a landmark step towards increased use of worldwide patent information on the internet, the Commissioner of the Japan Patent Office (JPO), Yoshiyuki Iwai, and the President of the European Patent Office (EPO), Benoît Battistelli, have signed an agreement which will provide users of the patent system with better machine translations of patents from Japanese into English and then into German and French. The agreement significantly enhances the scope and quality of Espacenet, the public patent information service on the EPO website, by adding an automatic translation tool.
"With this agreement, Japan and the EPO have reached another milestone in their long-standing co‑operation to develop efficient structures and services in the international patent system", says EPO President Battistelli. "Making Japanese patents available in English not only brings a wealth of technological information to users in Europe and elsewhere. It also offers an effective and reliable way for engineers, inventors and scientists to take account of the latest Japanese technology when defining their intellectual property strategies, and thus improve the focus and quality of their own work."
"Patent documents contain highly useful information on technology and can play an important role in dissemination of technology. In other words, the patent documents are very important not only for patent offices and applicants but also the public in the world and can contribute to global development of industry and economics. The number of patent documents written in various languages is increasing rapidly in the world. Therefore, it has become a common challenge for patent offices to realize an environment in which users can easily access to such document without feeling any language barriers", says JPO Commissioner Iwai. "The expectation for improvement of machine translation is very great and this time agreement will become a good step forward."
The significance of patent information has grown steadily with the creation of a global technology market reflected in a new record of 1.8 million patent filings worldwide in 2010. Despite the economic downturn, filings at the EPO increased again in 2011, to 243 000, with Japan accounting for 19%. The agreement ensures that these applications will be readily available for innovative companies, to the particular benefit of small and medium-sized enterprises and research institutes. It is also expected to improve the quality of patent applications, as users will be able to take better account of Japanese prior art.