Written by ForeignExchange Translations on Wednesday, December 01, 2010
This past Monday, Riina Ne'eman's Twitter feed contained the following post:
Seriously? Financial Times: Google to translate European patent claimsFT got the scoop a day before anybody else but within 24 hours, the translation industry was abuzz with opinions regarding the announcement that "EPO and Google have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve access to patent translations in multiple languages".
The background for this agreement to use Google's machine translation (MT) technology to translate patents into 29 European languages is, of course, the fact that the European patent system is broken.
As we have written before:
Currently, the closest thing to an EU-wide patent is provided by the European Patent Office, which isn't part of the EU. Once the office issues the patent it breaks up into a bundle of national patents, forcing companies to defend them individually in each country, which can cost as much as half a million euros in a typical case but the translation costs for long and complex cases are potentially enormous.The Google-EPO deal seems like a huge win-win: As Renato Beninato puts it, "for Google, this is a bonanza that will provide them with a vast database of quality translations of approximately 1.5 million documents". And for the EPO, it's an opportunity to set the agenda and demonstrate to reluctant member countries that the status quo won't last.
But for translation service providers, their worst fears have just been confirmed.
Six months ago, we conducted a poll on which development posed a greater threat to our industry, machine translation or crowdsourcing.
Translation service providers viewed advances in MT as a larger threat than efforts to use crowds of volunteer translators. And now, a quick six months later, translation service providers have to face up to the fact that MT in general and Google Translate specifically is a real threat to their livelihoods.
And the change in tone in the industry is startling. While respondents to our MT-vs-crowdsourcing poll dismissed MT as "rubbish", yesterday's post on the GTS Blog, for instance, strikes a much more cautious note:
Can Google machine translation replace the human translation process? Not likely. A patent is a carefully worded legal document- the wording of the claims can make or break an IP infringement case. Will Google replace the need for national patent filing in the language of each EU member state? That seems more of a political issue than a technical one.It will be interesting to see where we are in another six months...
Before you leave, take a look at these articles:
- A light-hearted look at what Google Translate really is being used for
- Is Google Translate accurate enough for professional use?
- When is "good enough" good enough?
ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation services to the world's leading pharmaceutical and medical device companies.