International patent applications continued to grow even as the world plunged deep into the pandemic. Patent filings at the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) actually reached “the highest number ever” at 275,900 applications in 2020, an increase of 4% over the previous year. Even more remarkable given the estimated 3.5% contraction in global GDP.
Leading filers, the US and China, also showed a growth in patent applications as reported by the WIPO in March 2021. According to SeproTec’s Juan Julián León, since China has steadily risen up the ranks of the world’s top patent filers, taking over the No. 2 spot from Japan after 2016, “we have seen more organizations taking control of their patent translations not only in China, but globally, by centralizing their translation needs.”
León serves as CEO at SeproTec, a company founded three decades ago specifically to focus on patent translations for customers of its parent company, GrupoSepro. Since then, global translation demand around intellectual property (IP) and patents has increased to such an extent that SeproTec has grown into the Group’s biggest division, with 14 offices in 6 major production hubs across Spain, Poland, Switzerland, and the US.
Ranked #25 on the 2021 Slator LSPI, the patent specialist works with many of the world’s top IP filers and has been an officially approved provider of the WIPO for over a decade and, more recently, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
Asked for his take on the steady growth of demand for patent translation despite the global pandemic, León said, “Moments of crisis are one of the greatest stimulators of innovation, as demonstrated in 2020. So we can expect a steady increase in demand for legal language services, especially as regards ensuring patent protection across international borders.”
León noted that the highest translation volumes are related to patent translation, which accounts for over 30% of the company’s income. He also pointed out how patent translations from pharmaceutical companies are changing. “Patent portfolios in the life sciences sector are evolving more into high-tech portfolios as the industry, including drug development, is increasingly using AI as well as other technologies to facilitate innovation.”
The SeproTec CEO added, “The industry, as a norm, already relies on quality IP translation services that guarantee the accuracy of high-tech translations. We are also seeing corresponding growth around tech-devices and wearables linked to health and wellness.”
Why IP & Patent Translation Racks Up Volumes
Last year, SeproTec translated 238 million words for over a thousand active customers globally across over a dozen sectors, with the largest chunk coming via IP & patents. Looking at the types of IP & patent documents SeproTec translates in any given year indicates just how complex the sector is.
- Patent applications – Across 40+ languages for filing and/or entering into national phases (i.e., for European Patent, Patent Cooperation Treaty or PCT, etc.).
- Documentation – translation of documents for the granting and examination of patent applications via the following:
- International Search Report (ISR)
- Written Opinion of the ISA (International Searching Authority)
- IPRP (International Preliminary Report on Patentability)
- Trademarks and design – translation of trademark and design documents for Nice (also called NCL, the International Classification of Goods and Services) and the International Patent Classification (IPC)
- Patent prosecution – translation of documents for legal proceedings
- Litigation documentation – document translation around patent infringements, technology fraud between patent holders, and unfair competition
- IP services – technical writing, filing, translation, searches and IP consultation through SeproTec’s global network of patent attorneys
León pointed out that managing such translation volumes, especially in highly regulated industries (pharmaceuticals, energy, etc.), is no easy task. He said it is critical for an IP & patent translation provider to have rigorous measures in place within the organization and vetted by the world’s top certifying bodies (e.g., ISO 9001, ISO 14001, UNE EN ISO 17100).
At SeproTec these rigorous measures can be summarized as follows:
- Audits – Quality Assurance department and management undergo annual internal and external audits
- Recruitment – Sourcing and onboarding of talent, internal and external, is a very strict process, with an added layer on top of what is required by the company’s ISO 17100 certification.
- Automation – To minimize errors
- PM to client ratio – Each client account is assigned one project manager and a specialized team of translators
- Database – Segmented by sector and updated daily (“We have an internal vendor management department with a fully dedicated team of professionals overseeing this,” León said.)
- NDA – Non-disclosure agreements are signed with clients and all external resources
Additionally, to better service the increasing demand for IP & patent translations globally, SeproTec founded SHIP Global IP in 2016. According to León, SHIP is the only comprehensive services company in the IP sector that has an in-house team of linguists specializing in patent translation.
“SeproTec owns large databases of IP content that, together with the experience and knowledge of 30 years in the sector, allow us to offer first-class quality and service efficiency.”
León added that working in tandem with SHIP also allows the clients of both organizations to stay abreast of developments in the global IP market, including patents (e.g., regulatory updates, third party oppositions, multilingual searches & monitoring ), which could potentially impact clients.