10 December 2012
In Brussels last week, I had the pleasure of launching – with the head of the Chinese Patent Office (SIPO), Commissioner Tian Lipu – the English-Chinese language pair for our Patent Translate service. Thanks to the very close and efficient co-operation between SIPO and the EPO, this new service has come into being just one year after we signed a bilateral agreement in China. This, in my view, is a striking illustration of the highly fruitful relationship, with a history extending back over more than 20 years, between the Chinese and European Patent Offices.
A direct consequence of introducing the new language pair is that our Espacenet database has been enriched, at a stroke, by more than 4 million Chinese patent documents. In the coming years, this figure will increase, to as much as 10 million. Patent Translate, which is integrated into Espacenet, is already registering 20 000 connections a day, and, with the addition of the English-Chinese pair, the number is expected to rise dramatically. Chinese is the first language of a non-EPO country to be included in Patent Translate. Our priority is to complete the coverage of European languages, including Russian, and then add Japanese and Korean by 2014. A bilateral agreement signed with the Korean Patent Office on 3 December will foster the building of the English-Korean corpora next year.
The continuous progress of our machine translation programme also has a bearing on an important political decision, expected this week, concerning the unitary patent package. The simplified language regime for the unitary patent is linked to the use of our translation service. The first unitary patent could be granted in 2014, by which time the European coverage of Patent Translate should be completed.
Reducing the cost of protecting inventions in Europe and removing the language barrier that has impeded access to information on the state of the art, especially from Asia – these are the main goals of our machine translation programme, developed in partnership with Google.