Posted by: patenttranslator | May 29, 2010

A Simple Guide to Machine Translation of Japanese Patents on the Japan Patent Office Website

(For information about translation of patents from Japanese, German, French, Korean, Chinese, Russian and other languages by highly experienced translators please visit our website at

Translations of Japanese patents can be very expensive. Or free, depending on whether they are done by humans or by a machine. Japan Patent Office (JPO) has been offering a free machine translation service on its website for patents published since 1994 for more than 10 years now, since 2000. I sometime use this service to confirm my estimate of the likely English word count, or to confirm my English translation of an obscure technical term, etc. These are machine translations. Very often, they don’t really make much sense, but sometime they do make sense. In any case, they can be used by people who do not read Japanese to determine what is the approximate content of a Japanese patent application.

Here is a simple guide to this service.

1. First, go to the URL for this machine translation service, which is here.

2. Enter the Patent Application Number (first field) or Patent Application Publication Number (second field). The “kind codes” are explained above on the page displayed with this URL: “A” is entered for an unexamined (Kokai) patent application, “B” for examined (Kokoku) patent applications, “U” for utility models, etc. If you have the Japanese document in front of you, item (12) of the Japanese document identifies the “kind code” as (A), (B), or (U). The field titled “Number” can be found in the Japanese document on the first page in the top right corner, for example as H5-123456. The number before the dash is the year in the Japanese calendar, for example the year 5 of the current era (called Heisei which means “peace everywhere”, not exactly a prophetic name, hence the “H”) corresponds to 1993, which was the year 5 of the reign of the current Japanese emperor, emperor Akihito. The era of the previous emperor, Hirohito, was called “Showa”, which means “enlightened peace”. It lasted 62 years, from 1926 to 1988. Therefore, patent applications filed before 1989 will start with the letter S, and the format will be for example S52-123456.  However, after the year 2000, JPO started using also the Western calendar for numbers in patent applications, in which case the number format would correspond to 2000-123456. In each case, the number after the dash is the number of a particular patent application filed in that year.

3. Click on the button “Search”. A link to the document will be displayed in the top left corner. If you see “@” displayed instead of the number of the document, this document is either too old and thus not entered in the database, or you may have entered something incorrectly, in which case you can go back and try again. You can now click on the link to the document to display an English summary. You will see purple buttons on top of the page which say “DETAIL”, “JAPANESE”, and “LEGAL STATUS”. Click on the button which says “DETAIL”. Voilà! You have succeeded. The machine translation function translates the claims automatically. You can now cut and paste the machine translated text into a Word document, than go back to the MT function and click on the button which says “DETAILED DESCRIPTION”, which will translate the rest of the document, except for the Japanese words used in Figures. Japanese words used in Tables will also not be translated.

You can also download originals of Japanese patent applications from the EPO website here. Enter the number of the Japanese Patent Application Publication on this website without the dash (either starting with S for Showa era (until 1989), or starting H for Heisei (the current emperor’s era), without the dash on the EPO website. From the year 2000, it is also possible to enter the calendar year in Western form, both on the Japanese Patent Office and on the European Patent Office website.

With the exception of the website of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) website and of the website of the European Patent Office (EPO), patent offices of other countries and organization do not offer machine translation, at least not on this level. The machine translation function offered on the EPO website is relatively recent. As it is a little bit more intuitive for English speakers, you may want to give it a try to translate a Japanese patent application by using the MT function on the EPO website if you have problems with the JPO website.  WIPO recently introduced a machine translation tool for several languages, including Japanese and English, which is based on Google Translate and other machine translation systems. I tested this tool and blogged about it here.

If you then determine based on the machine translation that you need a real translation, you can go to our website and call or e-mail us.

I will be happy to provide a binding cost and turnaround time quote.


  1. Like

  2. […] translation functions which are now available on various websites of patent offices, such as the Japan Patent Office Website, European Patent Office Website, or the World Intellectual Property Office […]


  3. Thanks for finally writing about >A Simple Guide to
    Machine Translation of Japanese Patents on the Japan Patent Office Website | Patenttranslator’s Blog
    <Liked it!


  4. […] time, about two decades, from several sources, including the EPO (European Patent Office) website, JPO (Japanese Patent Office) website, WIPO (World Intellectual Property Office) website and from other free […]


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