The statistics published by the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (hereinafter referred to as the "TIPO") over the past years show that almost one half of the number of patent applications in Taiwan was filed by foreign entities. As many foreign applicants had filed basic applications prior to their new filings in Taiwan, the Chinese version specifications are mostly those translated from foreign-language specifications.
In Taiwan, patent applications are examined based on the Chinese version specifications as filed. Thus, the overall quality of a Chinese translation may significantly affect the progress of the associated patent application and the effect of the resultant patent, if any. In general, if a Chinese version specification/claims suffer(s) from deficiencies or contain(s) mistranslated words/expressions where no remedy is available, it would in the long run undermine the applicant's right to exercise his/her patent.
In view of the significant role the Chinese version specification plays, several issues that may require attention in translation are enumerated below for reference purpose:
- Adopting machine translation without making proper adjustment, which generates hardly comprehensible terms/expressions
There are many shortcomings when machine translation is used. For example, machine translation may choose improper words or lack writing fluency and thus lead to a loss of the sense of the original language. According to the local practice, if the Chinese translation of a specification is difficult to understand, either the applicant will be required to make amendments to the specification or the application will be directly rejected.
- Using the terms prevalent in Mainland China, with no consideration of the local practice and the way of expression customarily used in Taiwan
As a result of the intensive interaction between Taiwan and Mainland China, the way of idiomatic expression in the two jurisdictions has been gradually streamlined. Nevertheless, there are still discrepancies between the two types of Mandarin. Lately, it is discovered that, for applications filed in Taiwan by applicants from Mainland China or other countries, there are occurrences of Chinese Mandarin terms, especially technical terms, in the translations of specifications. Apparently, these applicants are unaware that some technical terms in Taiwanese Mandarin are poles apart from those in Chinese Mandarin. For example, the equivalent of “compact disk” in Taiwanese Mandarin is “光碟,” while it is “光盤” in Chinese Mandarin. It also occurs that a term composed of the exact same characters in both Taiwanese Mandarin and Chinese Mandarin may refer to different things. Consequently, when Chinese Mandarin terms, rather than their proper equivalents in Taiwanese Mandarin, are included in the translations of specifications, not only could the Examiner have difficulty comprehending their meaning, but it may lead to misinterpretation of the scope of the claims or sense of the texts.
In recent years, there is also a phenomenon of using legal terms prevalent in Mainland China in the translations of specifications. In this regard, the TIPO once pointed out in a seminar that, in some translations, even very fundamental legal terms are replaced by those customarily adopted in Mainland China. For example, while the equivalent of “Claims” in Taiwanese Mandarin is “申請專利範圍/請求”, that in Chinese Mandarin is “權利要求.” Notwithstanding this, it is found in quite a number of specifications filed with the TIPO that “權利要求” is used in lieu of “申請專利範圍/請求項.” Although improper translations of such kind can usually be rectified without prejudice, it would more or less impose a burden on the applicant and even sap the finite resources of the TIPO.
- Translating the foreign languages directly into Chinese, which results in incomprehension or misunderstanding
The word-by-word translation usually lacks fluency and such stiff translation may be inconsistent with the language habit of Taiwanese people. Accordingly, the Examiner would require the applicant to make rectification to render the translation smoother and easier to read. Under such circumstance, the examination process will be forced to drag on.
In a nutshell, the translation of a foreign language specification should be conducted in a precise manner so that the associated application can be prosecuted more smoothly and rapidly and a patent, once secured, can be implemented without any restraint or hindrance arising from improper translation.
The above contents are intended as general discussion of the subject matter only and shall not be deemed as legal advice to any particular case or issue.