Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

China; European Union: Agreement to Use Chinese-English Machine Translations for Patents

(Dec. 20, 2011) It was reported on December 1, 2011, that China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) and the European Union's European Patent Office (EPO) had signed an agreement on the use of Chinese-English machine-translations for patents, “in an unprecedented move to eliminate linguistic barriers in public access to patent information.” (EPO and SIPO Sign Agreement on Chinese-English Machine Translation forPatents, EPO website (Nov. 29, 2011).) The agreement was reached at the two sides' fifth annual bilateral cooperation meeting, held in Chongqing. (The 5th SIPO-EPO Commissioner Meeting Held in Chongqing, Intellectual Property Protection in China website (Dec. 1, 2011).)

The two countries' patent offices agreed to work together to make the translation tools available to the public by 2012, with the service to be “free of charge and easily accessible through the Internet.” (EPO and SIPO Sign Agreement on Chinese-English Machine Translation for Patents, supra.) The change is viewed as opening access for innovators and patent system users worldwide “to a huge part of technological information hidden nowadays due to the language barrier.” (Id.) EPO President Benoît Battistelli noted, “[e]specially small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as research institutions, stand to benefit from this improved access to information on new technologies.” (Id.)

According to the EPO, citing the World Intellectual Property Organization, there were some 1.8 million patent applications filed worldwide in 2010, and many of them originate in China and Europe or take legal effect there. The EPO pointed out that the new automated system will help innovating businesses better adjust their research and development and investment strategies through the enhanced ability to monitor technical developments set forth in patents, make the dissemination of information on new technologies more efficient, and also improve the patent-granting process's quality by enabling Chinese prior art to be better considered. (Id.)

At the bilateral meeting, on November 29, the SIPO and the EPO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on bilateral cooperation. The EU has become Chongqing's largest trade partner, with half of the city's laptops exported to Europe and, in 2011 alone, investment generated by European businesses totaling some US$510 million. That trade relationship may be even further enhanced upon the completion of a Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe railway, a project reportedly viewed by local enterprises as a “Silk Road of Intellectual Property.” (The 5th SIPO-EPO Commissioner Meeting Held in Chongqing, supra.) According to Battistelli, the signing of the MOU was needed, “given the significant increase of patent applications in regions along the railroad.” (Id.)