[JITF2020] Patent Translation: First Steps

Thomas Kaiser

Born and raised in Australia, Tom studied computer science and Japanese at the Australian National University, and first worked as a software engineer in the Australian Public Service. After coming to Japan in 2008, Tom gained translation experience in the fields of technical and patent translation, and made the move to freelance due to COVID-19. He enjoys rakugo, Nippon Television’s Shouten, and computer games. Happily married to a Japanese-English interpreter and is the father of a preschooler. 

Patent Translation: First Steps

An invention – an advancement in a technical field – can be protected by the government by a patent – a legal description of the invention. Protecting an invention worldwide means translating that description. Applying for a patent is a long process, and applying across borders involves a great deal of translation: the application itself, correspondence with the patent office, and litigation to overturn a granted patent. Over the past decade, more international patent applications by foreign applicants are being filed in Japan – this means more translation needs to be done.

Combining technical translation with a touch of legalese, patent translation is a broad field that requires the translator to be knowledgeable in one or more fields such as chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, biotechnology, telecommunications, and more. 

Drawing from my experience as a translator at a patent firm in Tokyo, this presentation will give an overview of the lifecycle of a patent, identify where translation – and interpreting – work is to be found, and describe approaches to patent translation.

Japan Interpreting and Translation Forum 2020 (Japanese only)