Press release | 30.11.2010
Munich/Paris, 30 November 2010 -- The European Patent Office (EPO) and Google have today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve access to patent translations in multiple languages.
Under the envisaged collaboration, the EPO will use Google's machine translation technology to translate patents into the languages of the 38 countries that it serves. In return, it will provide Google with access to its translated patents, enabling Google to optimise its machine translation technology. Google technology will be used to translate patents originating in Europe as well as patents originating in other regions of the world and enjoying protection in Europe.
The collaboration aims to offer faster and cheaper fit-for-purpose translations of patents for companies, inventors and scientists in Europe. Today, anyone wishing to register a patent must do so in one of the EPO's official languages - English, French and German. They then need to arrange for translation of the patent - at their own cost - into the languages of all countries in which they wish the patent to apply. This complexity means that many European patents are not available in all national languages or legally binding in all the EPO's member states. Similarly, anyone searching for information in patents published in foreign languages finds it difficult to retrieve data relevant to their research projects.
"The European Patent Office is one of the largest providers of free information on state-of-the-art technology disclosed in patents from around the globe. The partnership with Google to create machine translation tools for patents will help inventors, engineers and R+D teams to retrieve relevant documents efficiently - in their own language - from our wealth of published patent information. This agreement with Google puts the EPO at the forefront of efforts to strengthen the patent system's international character and improve its quality for the benefit of the global economy," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli.
The collaboration also aims to facilitate the decision process of the EU states in their attempt to simplify the introduction of a single pan-European patent. While the EPO provides a common entry point to obtain patents throughout Europe, patent owners must still validate and, where necessary, translate patents in each individual EU country. As a result, obtaining Europe-wide patent protection is significantly more expensive than in markets such as the US. A single EU patent could reduce costs and enhance legal certainty, giving businesses and innovators unified protection for their inventions.
For Google, the collaboration offers a major opportunity to improve its translation service. The EPO will offer access to around 1.5 million documents, and each year this number grows by more than 50 000 new patent grants. The partnership also covers Asian languages. Facilitating access to the rapidly increasing volumes of Japanese, Chinese and Korean technological information is one of the biggest challenges facing the global patent system.
"This collaboration is exciting for both Google and Europe. It will help to increase access to information for all Europeans, supporting the innovation process and allowing the European economy to strengthen its competitiveness," said Carlo d'Asaro Biondo, Google's Vice President of Sales for Southern and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "It demonstrates how private companies can work with public institutions to find innovative solutions to difficult issues."
Google Translate works by ‘teaching' Google's software different languages. The software learns by looking at translated bodies of text and statistically determining what a given word or phrase means. As patents are written in a very specific style and format, gaining access to the EPO's corpus of translations will help Google Translate to improve the quality of patent document translations.
Google has been working in the area of patents for some time. Since 2006, Google Patent Search has been indexing all US patents and applications, making it easy to find patents, read them online or download them as PDF files.
The EPO has extensively opened up its patent documentation on the internet since 1998 and pursues an open policy in disseminating the technical data in its search collection. In co-operation with its member states, it also publishes national patent collections. It has been active in the machine translation field since 2004 with a view to addressing the growing challenge of accessing patent data in its official languages. Machine translation has also become a key tool for accessing and disseminating European patent data among both the public at large and specialised users of patent information.
European Patent Office
Tel.: +49 - 89 - 23991820
Mobile: +49 - 163 - 8399527
Anne- Gabrielle Dauba- Pantanacce
Tel : +33 (0)1 42 68 53 66