Article 1.3 of the Implementing Rules of the Patent Law provides that some patent applications must be translated into Chinese before being filed with the Chinese Patent Administration via the Paris Convention or the PCT. Consequently, in order to accurately translate the technical plan and ensure that it complies with the Patent Law and its Implementing Rules, translators need to pay attention to certain details. The author hereby presents some problems encountered in practice, and offers corresponding solutions.
Patent applications are comprised of five documents -- claims, descriptions, drawings for the descriptions, abstracts, and drawings for the abstracts.
Although translators do not need to translate drawings for the descriptions or the abstracts, they do need to translate the annotations to these items by finding the corresponding Chinese characters to replace the foreign language text.
Article 26.4 of the Patent Law provides that claims must be supported by the description and must state the extent of the patent protection asked for. This means that any translation mistake might result in the rejection of an application or a declaration of invalidation of an approved patent. In practice, agents are apt to translate descriptions ahead of claims for the purpose of improving the accuracy of their translation, because this method helps them comprehend and familiarize themselves with the technical plan in the application, and prevents them from mistakenly translating claims based on a misunderstanding of the technology.
Article 20.2 and Article 21.1 of the Implementing Rules provides that the features section must apply "it is characterized by ......" or a similar expression. This kind of expression does not correspond to the expressions adopted in English claims. Therefore, agents, for the purpose of clearly and accurately describing the technology, must add this type of phrasing, on a case-by-case basis at suitable locations in the text during the translation process. Moreover, although the definite article “the” is almost always translated as “所述”(said) in Chinese claims, there are also some exceptions. For example, we can not translate the definite article “the” of the expression “in the left-right direction”into “said” because “the” here does not play a limiting role in the technical plan. Moreover, to prevent narrowing the scope of technical plans, translators need to extend their understanding of them. For example, “diaphragm” literally means “隔膜” (septum) and is usually applied to valve technologies. However, the Chinese word “膜” means organization like film inside animal and is quite thin. Accordingly, in this circumstance, we usually translate the “diaphragm” as “隔片”（separator） so that the scope of protection of the technical plan will not be narrowed.
Article 17.1 of the Implementing Rules provides that the specification for an invention or utility model in a patent application must indicate the name of the invention or utility model, which name must be consistent with the name stated in the claim letter. Accordingly, it is best to translate descriptions in advance because the examiners may consider any expressed difference between the claims and the descriptions to be problematic. During the translation process we need to pay more attention to selecting appropriate words, because a single English word might be consistent with several similar Chinese meanings, and because a Chinese meaning might also be expressed with different English words. We therefore need to use different words (with similar meanings) to differentiate these synonyms. For example, if an application includes the words “portion” and “part”, we might translate “portion” as “部分” and “part” as “部” to formally distinguish them. On a related matter, during translation we often encounter a sentence with a long postpositive attributive and several nouns in the main clause, which makes it difficult to determine the word actually modified by the attributive. Under this circumstance we must refer to the drawing and the context to make a judgment. Apart from the foregoing, referring to drawings is both important and timely in the translation of descriptions, because the drawings are labeled with numbers corresponding to the reference numbers of the embodiments of the descriptions.
Under Article 23.1 and Article 23.2 of the Implementing Rules, the text portion of the abstract may not exceed 300 Chinese characters and must specify the name of the invention or utility model and the technical field to which it belongs. Some English versions, however, are not able to meet this standard. Under this circumstance revisions must be made.
The foregoing is a description of problems I have noticed during translation of English language patent applications.