Posted by: patenttranslator | April 18, 2014

But Why Is the Text Under the Red Box Not Translated?


Somebody sent me an unsolicited e-mail from Japan which said:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Greetings from Japan.

Does your company translate PCT International Search Reports (ISRs) or Written
Opinions issued by the various International Searching Authorities (WOSAs)? If
so, we can help you to save both time and money.

We provide Japanese to English translation services for the following two WOSA
sections (see attached example).
– Box V.1 Statement
– Box V.2 Citations and explanations

As you are well aware, these sections are complex, and the WIPO requirements for
the translation are exacting. The translation and any necessary checking /
rewriting are time consuming and expensive.

We are able to prepare translations using our own proprietary computer software,
which allows us to provide an accurate translation quickly and at lower cost
compared to employing a human translator to translate the WOSA.


Our specifics are as follows:
– Delivery Time: Translation for 1000 documents within 1 to 2 weeks (may vary
depending upon our current workload)
– Rate: 500 Japanese yen / document

As you can see if you click on the link to the PDF file below, the MT translation of the text in the box is quite impressive:

Example of Japanese Text in the Box & English Translation

A great idea how to make a lot of money (500 Japanese yen is about 5 US dollars and you would be able to make it with a few mouse clicks with machine translation software)?

Well, no, not really, I don’t think so.

The text in the red box is very easy to translate with machine translation software because the same repetitive formulation is always used to identify the same documents which are used by the Patent Office to reject a patent application.

Moreover, the MT program has a very easy time with these Japanese sentences because not a single verb is needed in any of these sentences in the English translations (it is sometime difficult even for a human translator to figure out which verb belongs to which noun in Japanese because this will depend on the meaning of the sentence). Any machine translation software, such as Google Translate or Microsoft Translator, could thus be used with virtually the same result.

And even if you don’t know Japanese, you can still figure out what the text in the red box means if you learn about 5 Japanese characters because the number of the patent application (or New Utility Model Application in this case) is obvious from the format (60-202239 in this case).

So, a patent law firm could for example train a monolingual but smart paralegal to learn just a few characters to identify relevant passages in relevant Japanese patent documents, such as 図: Figure, 頁: page, and 段落: paragraph, especially since these characters are always followed by numbers that anybody can read. The same paralegal could also use these few characters to identify figures, pages, paragraphs, etc., in Chinese patent applications as well.

Or any MT program could be used for a very good MT-translation of these texts in the red box. Or better still, a smart albeit monolingual paralegal could learn quite easily how to use for example a dozen Japanese and Chinese characters in combination with a machine translation software such as Google Translate.

Or a patent agent or lawyer could decide to learn a dozen Japanese and Chinese characters, just for the heck of it, and presumably all patent agents and patent lawyers use machine translation by now.

You don’t really need to know a lot of Japanese to be able to figure out what the text in the red box means in your own language. Or to figure out repetitive passages in Chinese, or German or any language for that matter because what I am saying about Japanese in this post can be applied to other languages as well.

You would also not need to know that much Japanese to be able to figure out the first sentence under the red box, although it would need to contain a few verbs in English. The sentence means in English: “Based on the Bibliography 1 – 3 cited in the International Patent Gazette, the invention described in claim 1 lacks inventive step”, and just about any machine translation software package would probably do a very good job on this sentence.

The second sentence under the red box is also quite simple, as it says that “… a person in the art would be able to easily arrive at the use of the construction of heat exchanger 18 based on description of Figure 2 in Bibliography 1 …. (etc.). A monolingual person would probably be able to figure out the meaning of the entire sentence quite well from a machine translation, although the chances are that some of the elements of the sentence would be mistranslated by any machine translation software.

But the third sentence is so long and complicated (relatively speaking), that any machine translation software would probably mangle it beyond recognition. I could demonstrate it for example on Google Translate, but I don’t want to make this post too long.

You need an experienced patent translator who really understands Japanese and knows the technical terms in both languages to make sense out of the third sentence and the rest of the sentences to translate the rest of this Written Opinion from Japanese to English.

This is why I think that the guy who sent me this e-mail from Japan is not going to make a lot of money with his idea.

Thanks to ubiquitous and mostly free machine translation, there are in fact other, easier and cheaper ways to figure out what the text in the red box means.

But although developers of machine translation software keep telling us that machine translation that will eliminate the need for human translators is just around the corner, since they have been saying it for several decades now, they will probably keep saying it for a few more decades or a few more centuries.

In the meantime, patent law firms will need an experienced patent translator if they really want to know what the text outside of the red box, which can be easily handled by machine software, really says.

Spending 5 dollars on this particular service would be a waste of money if the service can only tell you what is in the red box.



  1. Very interesting! I’ve never come across something like this, but then again I don’t translate legal docs or patents. Sometimes I think of the poor guy/agency/person calling you/emailing and thinking you are a gullible normal person when probably you’re the toughest most in the know person they’ll contact. Ha!


  2. @Jesse

    Thank you for your comment.

    I am neither gullible (although I used to be), nor normal, and I like it that way!


  3. I translate a goodly number of these Search Reports from German to English.The basic PCT and EP Search Report forms already exist in English in official approved versions. The trick, as you say, is to translate the original prose, unique to each Search Report, that appears outside the boxes. Machine translations are not good for this. I’ve made myself a template for my clients that gives the gist of the forms and then goes to the specifics, which is what my clients need to know. And I would not translate these for $5 apiece! Nor could I do 1000 of them in a week or two, since the unique texts are generally several pages long (and I have other work on hand too). Is the agency that wrote you paying $5 for filling in the boxes, period?


  4. Hi Jan:

    It’s not an agency, just a guy (who likes to use “pluralis majestatis”) offering “language services”.

    One of these thousands of people who think that they have figured out a way to make a lot of money easily and quickly by using machine translation software.


  5. Actually, I’m not convinced that this part is MT–In the case of WOSAs, by the time the report is available, the ISR (i.e. the citations) have already been translated and published. So this may actually be a cut-and-paste job


  6. @ J

    In any case it seems to be a rather silly scheme that is not likely to work.


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