Patent Translation

Work Overview

Work Overview

Patent translation is the work of translating into English descriptions of patent applications originally written in Japanese and replies to patent offices according to patent engineers' instruction.

Canon has long focused on obtaining patents as a means to protect and expand our business activities all over the world. To obtain patents in various countries, it is essential that documents filed with the respective patent offices accurately express the original intention of the drafter. This is why Canon places great emphasis on the patent translation process and Canon has a team which has specialized knowledge in the work.

Work Overview

Patent translation work at Canon

Understanding of Inventions

The patent translation process requires translating the details of a patent application into English with use of expressions which would appropriately describe inventions. For that, it is necessary to understand the technical background of the inventions and to understand the aim of the patent application. To this end, patent translators have made efforts to obtain insights into the perspectives of patent engineers and further understanding of inventions by attending meetings held in the department of patent engineers or by participating in an internal training program which gives patent translators a chance to experience the actual work of patent engineers. Based on this understanding of inventions and the mindsets of patent engineers, patent translators translate documents prepared by patent engineers for filing with patent offices and originally written in Japanese into English expressions appropriate to inventions accounting for the intrinsic linguistic differences between Japanese and English.

Selecting appropriate English expressions

Patent translations must pay close attention to English expressions and wording, because the scope of a patent right may deviate from what patent engineers intended originally, depending on what English wording is selected.

For example, when a Japanese expression is translated into an English expression of “Unit A is composed of B and C”, it may be interpreted that the English expression excludes the possibility that “Unit A may include another element such as D or E”. If this possibility was intended by patent engineers to be included in the patent description originally written in Japanese, the above-mentioned English expression “Unit A is composed of B and C” drafted in the patent translation process results in making the scope of the patent right narrower than originally intended. This is why Canon's patent translators make sure to understand what the invention is and what the intention of the patent application is. And then, they carefully select English expressions appropriate to inventions based on a solid understanding of the grammatical connotations of the selected English expressions. This is how patent translators contribute to obtaining strong patent rights.

Working together with patent engineers


Patent translators continually strive to communicate closely with patent engineers in order to understand the details of inventions and the backgrounds of patent applications. They often meet with patent engineers to go over unclear areas of an invention until they have a firm understanding of the details. Translators sometimes even give advice to patent engineers on the original Japanese text from the standpoint of patent translation, such as how the Japanese text will be interpreted when translated into English. Thanks to ongoing communications like these, patent engineers place a lot of trust in patent translators, with even experienced patent engineers occasionally asking translators about details in English descriptions found in other companies' patents.
The gratitude they receive from patent engineers motivates patent translators in their daily work. They feel a special sense of accomplishment that they played a role in obtaining a patent when they hear from patent engineers that a solid claim was successfully established because they reviewed the application together with the patent translators.
This relationship of trust between patent translators and patent engineers at Canon has been built up through the close communications as they tackle each invention in turn.


Insatiable curiosity and abundant imagination

An important part of patent translation work is keeping up with new technologies. Constantly updating technical knowledge is equally important as understanding English. Although it's hard at times, always being in touch with new technologies is what makes patent translation interesting. Patent translators do not simply substitute English for Japanese. They must first understand the nature of inventions to be patented and then express it in appropriate English. Thus, the patent translation work requires more imagination than a work which would be normally conceived in association with the expression “translation work”. Our patent translators' inquisitiveness into patent translation, insatiable curiosity about ever-changing technologies, and abundant imagination are major strengths of Canon IP, which has been engaging in obtaining patents all over the world.