Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Google To Translate European Patents

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the babel-patent dept.

Patents 53

An anonymous reader writes "Internet search company Google Inc on Tuesday said it has signed a deal with the European Patent Office (EPO) to use the company's technology to translate patents into 29 European languages that will pave the way for a simplified European patent system. Google's deal, which comes after years of infighting, is expected to make it easier for inventors and scientists from across the continent to access information on patents with the EPO that has 38 member countries."

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Google World Domination (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415094)

Coming to a continent near you!

Simple? (2)

2phar (137027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415116)

The EU requirement to translate all its business into every language of every member state isn't something that makes me think simplicity!

Re:Simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34415180)

Many years ago there was a motion to use Latin as an official language for laws and the like, being the only language common to the history of all European countries, but this was not accepted. I think that most of it gets anyway translated to Latin eventually, because of the Vatican.

Re:Simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415218)

Latin isn't an official language of the Vatican.

Re:Simple? (1)

geegel (1587009) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415294)

Half true. The official language of Vatican City is Italian, the official language of the Holy See is Latin

Re:Simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415504)

I will rephrase:

"I think that most of it gets anyway translated to Latin eventually, because of the Holy See".

This does not change much of the meaning of the statement.

Anyway it was just humorous. Humor at the problem of getting one language to count above the others in the European union. Why should be English prominent above french or German above Italian?

It's not that obvious that English should be chosen. French has been the dominant language in Europe for many centuries, for example and since England is Not fully committed to European union rules they have an harder times to push for their language to get an official recognition as the official one.

Re:Simple? (1)

geegel (1587009) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415528)

Erm... no.Latin really is the official language []

As for your other objection, there's actually some meat to it. However you can all blame it to the fact that English is the de facto lingua franca

Re:Simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415610)

De facto != by law.

The problem is that no language can have any legal relevance above another. In other words, all translations have the same legal value. If one translation, by virtue of language differences, makes a different interpretation of the law possible this can't be used as an argument in courthouse.

If one did choose one language, F.E. English, an Italian law(for example, could be French, German...) should be written in Italian and then translated, at this point the translation would become the official law on which interpretations should happen. This creates many problems, also because in Europe there is a mix of roman and common law. So various states really do read laws in different ways.

All in all I see why governments here are not willing to give away the right to write and read their own laws in their own language.

Also the fact that not all politicians, lawyers and judges are proficient enough with any foreign language to understand foreign laws in another language should be considered. Also if it was decided to create such proficiency years...most probably a few decades would be required.

I don't know about other countries but here in Italy lawyers and judges are the most resistant professionals to any kind of change and learning of new things.

Not A Member (2)

andersh (229403) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415954)

The Vatican is not a member of the European Union.

Only member nations' languages are official.

The European Union is not synonymous with the continent of Europe.

Re:Not A Member (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34416512)

Please read again I never stated that the Vatican or Holy See to be in the european community.

I simply stated that most European community are eventually translated to Latin due to the Vatican. Perhaps I should have stated "by the Vatican". This happens mainly because there they translate in Latin anything they are interested in.

Underestimating The Amount Of Information (1)

andersh (229403) | more than 2 years ago | (#34418568)

I certainly don't agree with you, it's not logical to believe the Church translates everything of interest.

The European Union and its institutions produces an extremely large amount of information. The Vatican may very well be interested in a wide range of subjects the EU is involved in, however it does not need to translate it to Latin(!)

The Catholic Church is more than capable of conducting its business in Italian or any of the other major official languages of the EU. The documents are already available in Italian. It would be a waste for the Church to even attempt to translate all of the information produced by the EU. They're more interested in understanding and influencing decisions in line with their views. This is about politics, not an archive.

Ecclesiastical Latin is used for edicts and papal bulls issued by the Church, not for every piece of information and communication. Since the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the Church no longer uses Latin as the exclusive language of the Roman liturgies of the Latin Rite. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia has commented that Latin is starting to be replaced by vernacular languages.

Re:Simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34415188)

It's not. What's your point?

If I said 'paving roads is the way to simplified transportation' would you then say 'but paving the roads isn't simple'?

Re:Simple? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415322)

There's a difference. When paving roads you're only going to use one sort of road surface (blacktop asphalt isn't the only option), not 29 different types.

Re:Simple? (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415204)

And which is the 'original' language (given that translation can be a bit tricky)?

In the States, for example, some contracts--and not to say that patents are any sort of contract; but to draw a parallel to something where competing versions might differ and become subject to a matter for the courts, who would need a single point of reference--are translated to Spanish, but include a clause that states, more or less, "In the case of conflict between this contract and any translated version, the English version shall be used to resolve any disputes arising from this agreement.". That's (mostly) when dealing with two separate languages; I'm sure, in the EU, the situation is a bit more muddled...

European Nations (1)

andersh (229403) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415896)

The situation in Europe is a bit more complex, but not quite the way you imagined.

The EU is not a single jurisdiction, in fact quite the contrary. Despite the common misunderstanding the supranational cooperation only extends so far, the EU is not a federal state. The member nations are sovereign and the courts operate in the national language(s).

The EU itself has to offer translations of its documents in all of the official languages of the member nations, however the same does not apply to any of the member states of course. If citizens of foreign nations, including EU member states, are on trial they have the right of course to an interpreter and translations.

As with all international law, also between European nations regardless of the EU, there is always the question of what the langauge of the original contract says. However as you correctly stated we're talking about patents and not contracts here.

The EU only includes 27 of the total 50 European nations.

Re:Simple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415248)

EPO is not a EU institution.

And there is no language that is superior to others. If we would use fewer languages, and make people change their native language, a lot of culture would be lost.

The EU doesn't translate everything into all languages, but at least three: English, German and French. Since Spanish and Italian are on the rise, they try to become "main" languages too these days.

I think its beautiful that we have this diversity.

Democracy Is Never Simple (1)

andersh (229403) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415936)

No, but they key word was democracy.

Access to official information in your native language is a democratic right [where your language is the official language of said member country of the European Union].

Oh good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34415134)

As if patents weren't vague and misunderstood as is, nothing like a google translation to make them even more easy to troll with.

Some background data (3, Informative)

geegel (1587009) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415194)

The official EPO release: link []

The EU Commission policy that started it all: link []

Re:Some background data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415740)

How long before some EU commisioner gains a seat on the board of Google?

Re:Some background data (2)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415922)

Patent 1010101

Dear Aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all, and method for manufacturing same.

Clear language in patents? (3, Insightful)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34415198)

They will inevitably end up with mistranslations like 'computer chips' that become 'las papas fritas con sal de la computadora'. I wonder if they can uphold a patent with these kinds of errors...

Re:Clear language in patents? (1)

theNetImp (190602) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415242)

I was going to say, Google translate is ANYTHING but accurate. My wife (who's Japanese) laughs at some of the things Google comes up with...

Re:Clear language in patents? (4, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415436)

I know not what talking about you are. Google with the translating has made vast improvements for world of many people! With increase moving of language between many person, the communicate of patent information is as clear as water in a London river!

Re:Clear language in patents? (1)

Motard (1553251) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415332)

They will inevitably end up with mistranslations like 'computer chips' that become 'las papas fritas con sal de la computadora'. I wonder if they can uphold a patent with these kinds of errors...

Translated from English to Japanaese and back again...

Japanese to English translation
The present invention, the method to handle comprises four main way is to write data to the database: one to form the bit encoding is compact and efficient than) to link the file to the file and manipulate data files ready to receive additional data; 3) files above to determine the physical memory address potential for data files, comprehensive sufficiently arbitrary memory is divided into blocks of data are By optimizing available memory space of the media, and 2) to form a single memory medium overall data structure with pointers to link a file, all the physical memory space yet to be fully To take full advantage of search in order to allow all the data required to read the small, 4), wherein the lookup table to generate a block dotted with references to the table is added to track physical disk location-related data is needed to read. The invention further system, the method above, so you can write a fixed-size memory media can be used in the database to another computer system, running on the computer system database that contains the first comprising said that, memory access speed, as is reducing the computing power required to obtain such information density of information that is stored in memory media, to increase still enhanced .

Actually, I think it's slightly easier to comprehend now.

Re:Clear language in patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415382)

There is a big quality difference between online translations and offline. Nobody would expect Google to use online translations - that would be insane.

Re:Clear language in patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415614)

Nobody would expect Google to use online translations - that would be insane.

As opposed to granting patents on abstract subject matter like software? We are talking about the EPO and sanity doesn't appear to be one of their strong points.

Re:Clear language in patents? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415384)

That example is especially funny since in European Spanish, computer isn't "computadora" but "ordenador".

Spanish, not European Spanish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34416118)

You don't have to prefix the original language with geographic origins. It's Spanish plain and simple.

What you learn in the "New World" is a subversion of the language.

Re:Spanish, not European Spanish (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#34416538)

Yeah, well, they shouldn't have exported it by decimating and enslaving the natives and force them to speak it.
We did the same thing in Brasil, Africa and Timor, so now we talk European Portuguese instead of simply Portuguese.

Re:Clear language in patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415396)

Perhaps it will become clear that the patents on "computer implemented inventions" granted by the EPO contravene the EPC exclusion on "programs for computers"?

Would it be possible to infringe on a patent where google had screwed up the translation?

Re:Clear language in patents? (1)

ath1901 (1570281) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415754)

Yes, but that would make the patent more readable. It might even make the patent valid!

Re:Clear language in patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34418120)

I can read quite a few European languages of Germanic or Latin roots. The problem is that I read most of these languages painfully slow and sometimes false friends, figures of speach, interpunctation and prepositions that have the same roots (and sound similar) but is used different in different languages, make me confused. So I use Google translate showing the original language and then point on text snippets that I need help with. I also switch between different target languages and compare translations. This is the ONLY reliable method of using Google Translate with most languages pairs and you MUST have some understanding of the language translated or you will be fooled by bad translations. I never ever use Google translate to translate something I don't understand to English (except French and German) because its translations into English is the most devious ones, they look correct, but usually don't mean the same as the originals meant. I think Google uses some post-translation process to make the English look more natural. If you have to use Google to translate a document to be able to read it, translate to some language other then English, where bad translations is easier to spot.

My experience so far:
French -> English -- Good enough to be useful
German -> English -- Usually good, but within a text there is usually a few dangerous mistranslations and google doesn't really understand how composite words mean different things then when the same base-words is written seperatly.
Spanish -> English -- Usually good, but bad enough to be dangerous.
Dutch -> English -- Confusing.
Swedish -> English -- Totally fucked up! Google Translate have been trained on documents from international organisations (like UN and EU) written in SwEnglish (that is Swedish with an intentional English like language structure and wording, it is still grammatically correct and readable Swedish (and very easy to translate to and from English), just very verbose and ugly). With a more natural Swedish language, google usually translate most sentences to mean the opposite of what they originally meant. Yes, the total opposite, negations become postives, positives becomes negations, up becomes down et.c. One of the problems is that an English chapter translated into good natural Swedish, usually become just a few sentences where the content is mostly reordered. I don't think artificial intelligence is good enough to find any patterns in that. Translations from natural Swedish to English usually get more verbose and some of the content is removed to make the English flow more natural.
Icelandic -> English -- Not trustworthy
Norse -> English -- Fucked up
Danish -> English -- Fucked up

French -> German -- Good
German -> French -- Bad
German -> Swedish -- Bad
Swedish -> Norse -- Horrible and dangerous
Swedish -> Danish -- Horrible and dangerous
Norse -> Swedish -- Good for a laugh
Google Translate have a bad habit of confusing Norse and Danish (and sometimes Swedish and even Dutch). Especially in a multi-language text (documents with mixed Danish, Norse and Swedish content is very common).
Icelandic -> Swedish -- Fucked up
Spanish -> Swedish -- Hah! It take me an hour to read a Spanish text that would take me less then ten minutes to read in Swedish or English, but I prefer the Spanish original before using Google Translate.

Re:Clear language in patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34421210)

The rest of the patents simply state: Server Error on Translation the Patent. Please Try Again Later. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415210)

I wonder do they use the automatic tranlator? The Finnish translations generated by Google Translate are hilariously bad!

"Patent: Inserting brown cat into sinusoid railway cart." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415254)

According to the article, Google will "use the company’s technology to translate patents". In other words these are supposed to be automatic translations. Anyone who understands technology can see that if the deal does not include competent human translators going over the patent texts, the result will be near worthless. So either the reporting is deficient or the European Patent Office does not understand the limitations of technology.

Good luck with that... (2)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415244)

It is not easy for me to follow my company's patents when they deal with technologies we use and I am familiar with. I am sure automatically translated versions would be pretty much incomprehensible.

Riiiight... (4, Insightful)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415280)

I wonder if they can translate US patents into English...

Re:Riiiight... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415666)

I wonder if they can translate US patents into English...

Sure, they'll just add the letter 'u' to the word "color".

I take it... (1)

Simon Rowe (1206316) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415386)

that they've filled a patent for this technology?

Google Inc (2)

fremsley471 (792813) | more than 2 years ago | (#34415500)

Christ, I know it's futile to complain about the summaries, but "Internet search company Google Inc"! Glad I wasn't confused by all the other Googles out there. Any article that feels it has to explain who Google are doesn't really improve the SNR here. Huge chunks of the 7 billion people on this planet won't know what Google do, but they're unlikely to be getting their news online.

Re:Google Inc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34419270)

I'm from the future, researching the history of European patents, insensitive clod.

What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415534)

Machine translation of legalistic obfuscation? Google now supplies the infinite number of monkeys.

Super Karate Monkey Death Car Patent System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34415622)

Purely in the interests of science, I have translated Amazon's 1-Click patent into Japanese, and back into English.

"Method and system, please place your order to purchase goods over the Internet. Order, the purchaser is placed on the client, received by the server system. The server system, purchased from a client, payment information, receive information, including identification of the purchaser and shipping information. Server systems, clients, assign an identifier to the identifier used to purchase information received by the client and the client is assigned relevant. Server systems, clients are assigned, including buttons for system and client identifier that identifies the item and send HTML documents. Received by the client to store the client identifier assigned to receive, HTML document is displayed. Depending on the choice of the order button, the client sends a request to purchase the item identified by the server system. The server system receives the request, the purchaser, at the option of the order, the order of the product due to demand, in order to generate a purchase order to ship products based on the information, the client identifier associated with a client Click buyer information are combined."

Undemocratic (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 2 years ago | (#34416148)

Patents should only be enforceable if official versions are available to product developers in a language of the developer's country.

Machine translations will not be considered official, so product developers will have to avoid infringing the original (official) patent which is in some other language. If machine translations are truly there for information purposes only, then that's harmless, but in all proposals so far, machine translations have been proposed because foreign language patents will become enforceable in the target country.

If you infringe a patent, you've broken the law. If the patent was in some foreign language, you are now being held responsible by your country for doing breaking a law which was written in a foreign language. That situation is completely unacceptable.

The state of machine translation: []

This goes for all types of patents, but the problem is particularly acute for software patents because software is often developed by individuals and organisations with little funding, so expecting developers (mass producers) of software to hire translators is more absurd than having the same expectation of mass producers of pharmaceuticals or cars (which are always medium-to-large companies). []

Re:Undemocratic (1)

thirtyfour (1951876) | more than 3 years ago | (#34425472)

Patents are only enforceable in the country in which they are filed. The language doesn't matter. You are complaining about a problem that does not exist.

Y'd think! (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34425730)

Y'd think!

What you describe is the current situation, but the European Commission has been working on a Community Patent since 2000 which will be published officially only in English and would be valid across the whole EU (of if they don't get agreement on that, it will be opt-in, and 25 out of 27 countries have indicated they'd opt-in). Human translations to French and German would be made (of all or part of the patent), and machine translations for the other 26 languages.

So, there will be a law in Spain, Italy, Poland, etc. saying "It is illegal to do anything described in the EPO's patents". And the EPO will only officially publish the patents in English.

Hard to believe, but that's where we're at now.

ob (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#34417602)

I'm going to patent a hovercraft for transporting eels.

Someone will sue (1)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 2 years ago | (#34417964)

Is there a patent on translating patents?

The first revision didn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34420418)

True story: Google originally used a translator for general documents on this. So it would translate e.g. from English Patentese to French, rather than English Patentese to French Patentese. The majority of the documents came out much shorter. One word, in fact: "merde".

Why not host a shared task instead? (1)

nickruiz (1185947) | more than 2 years ago | (#34423688)

There are plenty of machine translation conferences/shared tasks going on that are targeting patent translation (e.g. PatentMT - [] ). Instead of just handing this patent task to Google, why didn't the European Commission host an MT shared task and give a prize to the winner? There are a lot of decent systems being designed by universities and research laboratories, especially in Europe. Oh, well, at least the European Commission is starting to adopt machine translation.

end of deadlock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34467472)

I'm glad Google and the EPO made this arrangement. This is a rational and inventive approach to the deadlock over translation. Now, hopefully, plans for a unified European patent [] system can finally move forward.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?