Watch your language in patent proceedings

In many situations patent law may require that translations be made, for example of patents or prior art documents. Among other things, the advent of the unitary patent added new translation requirements. In this regard, it is notable that computer translations are expressly not allowed. Good to be aware of this.

Language requirements

 Patent rights are rights that have a legal effect on the inhabitants of a particular country. Just as national laws have. Therefore, it is not surprising that countries impose language requirements on filed patent applications and patents. Usually a patent application must then be filed in the official national language or at least translated into it.

With the advent of the unitary patent, a notable translation requirement has been added. If a unitary patent is granted in English, it must be translated into one of the 23 other official languages of the European Union. If the patent is granted in French or German, it must be translated into English.

Although countries themselves do not impose language requirements on prior art documents, translations may be desirable here as well. Sometimes a translation is indispensable to the applicant. In fact, it may be essential to better assess the relevance of the document to the patentability of an invention.


It will not have escaped anyone's notice that emerging artificial intelligence can be enormously helpful in translation drafting. Depending on the situation, this can indeed be of benefit. Still, it is important to keep in mind whether these tools provide the right quality. A small translation error can have major consequences for rights in which much has been invested. Moreover, it is not always possible to check a translation from or into a language that the user does not have sufficient command of. Also, one should be aware that the unitary patent system does expressly not allow computer translations.


Thanks to our extensive international network, V.O. can provide the desired translation for any document. In addition, we keep a close eye on the development of computer translation programs such as Patent Translate of the European patent office, Google Translate, IP.Translator, DeepL, and so on. This allows us to make appropriate use of (certified, human) translators, computer translation programs, or a combination thereof for each situation and need.

For translations or questions about them, please contact your patent attorney.



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