Users of the European Patent Office (EPO) patent searching engine Espacenet may already be familiar with “EPO Translate”, which provides machine translations of the description and claims between English, French and German.  The EPO has been adding language pairs to the translation service in order to expand the scope of the service and recently announced the launch of an English-Japanese language pair.

About half of a total of three million Japanese patent documents have already been loaded into the Espacenet database and are now available to be read in an English translation.  The rest of the documents are being added in the near future.

This is a great step forward, as until now only abstracts have been available in English through Espacenet. This extension of the machine translation service to cover Japanese will significantly facilitate searching and research in Japanese patent documents.  Although human translations may still be necessary in some cases, this service should assist in identifying which documents are relevant and justify closer inspection and the cost of obtaining a partial or full human translation. 

The “EPO Translate” service now provides machine translation between English and 15 other languages: Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.