The role of CAT tools in Patent Translation

Tesi di laurea in Laboratorio CAT
Università del Salento, A.A. 2018/2019

The role of CAT tools in Patent Translation - Serena Cuscianna


This dissertation outlines how useful CAT tools can prove to be in patent translation. The first chapter began by giving a general overview of the patent, then proceeded by providing a definition of “patent” and descriptions of its main features, and conclude by offering an in-depth examination of the legislative and bureaucratic aspects of patenting. It has been pointed out that not all ideas are patentable and, if needed requirements for patentability are met, it is essential to comply with the patent law in force in the Country where the invention is sought to be protected. Each sovereign State has its unique patent legislation even though there are similarities among patent rules of various Countries. The major differences in patent laws and regulations lie in the requirements for obtaining exclusive rights, the procedure of obtaining them and their scope. Furthermore, applying for and granting a patent is a time-consuming and costly process. For this reason, it is advisable to rely on professionals who can capture all aspects and features of the invention and properly assist the inventor.

The linguistic specificities and lexical aspects analyzed in the second chapter have proven that the patent is a legal document characterized by a highly formal register and a deliberately arid style. A high degree of repetitiveness, nominal style, use of the passive form, emotionless tone, impersonal style and the use of technical terms are all typical features of the patent document. The language of patents, therefore, is often not very elegant, as formal elegance takes second place to the need to present the content in a clear, technical, and detailed way.

Because of the repetitiveness both of single terms and entire expressions – which is a typical feature of patent texts – the use of CAT tools is a common practice. CAT tools provide increased quality, productivity and earning potentials both for translators, localization managers, and project managers. For instance, with a CAT tool is possible to complete the work faster, as well as easily and quickly share resources with other translator or project managers, and make previous translations an asset to keep. Over the years, CAT software has developed, gradually evolving into powerful tools made up of several core components. In this dissertation, among the translation resources offered, specific attention has been paid to TMs and TBs. The use of TMs consists of building a linguistic database that continually captures translations ad the translator works, resulting in an acceleration of the translation process, and higher quality leading to greater customer satisfaction. On the other hand, the number of technical terms in a patent also makes the use of TBs indispensable. This type of multilingual database contains terminology for a particular field or industry, offering suggestions when a term occurs in the source document to make sure that the translation fully reflects the correct terminology, thus ensuring consistency in the texts. Today’s market offers a wide choice to translators who decide to use CAT tools. Nevertheless, the references mentioned in this dissertation showed that the most widely used tool is SDL Trados Studio.

The coexistence of technical-scientific language and legal- bureaucratic language makes patent translation particularly insidious. One might think that a patent is simple and quick to translate once the exact translation is identified. However, the delicacy of such a document should not be underestimated, given the legal coverage it must provide to intellectual property on the invention concerned. The patent translator is expected to acquire knowledge at least of the fundamentals of the subject matter. The translation of a patent requires compliance with specific logics typically observed in the technical-scientific field, which differ from those normally observed in general translation. The translator must embrace a literal approach to translation. Even in the case of errors and inaccuracies in the source text, the translator must keep personal intervention to a minimum and often refrain from correcting them. Even though CAT seems to be the best solution in patent translation, MT has also been increasingly used in recent years. Although translation fully performed by a computer was not initially welcomed by translators, it is a significant contribution to patent translation.

In the fifth and final chapter, explicit reference was made to my personal three-month internship experience in a translation company in Scotland, United Kingdom. The standard workflow applied for the translation of a patent has been schematically illustrated, with emphasis on the tasks carried out by the translator. Although each professional figure involved has a distinct and specific task, the entire workflow can be considered as an assembly line: each action depends on the previous one and influences the next. The translation of a patent involves a range of decisions to be taken by the translator, which could also have major consequences on the quality of the final product. For example, the exploitation of the potential of a CAT tool such as SDL Trados Studio combined with the aid provided by a MT tool such as DeepL can be crucial. In order to provide an example that would practically show the role played by the TM within a translation project processed with Trados and the contribution made by MT, one of the patents translated during the internship was selected. At the beginning, charts and tables have been created to make it easier to read and interpret the data concerning the distribution of the matches identified by Trados within the text. Afterward, some segments extracted from the text were reported as representative examples of different types of matches and how they have been managed by the translator. Proposing the same segment in the different status of translation had a dual purpose. First of all, it allowed illustrating in detail the stages of the translation process, in the transition from SL to TL. Finally, it has proved that, for the same type of match, the type of intervention required is similar, thus confirming what has been stated throughout this dissertation.


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Several acronyms have been used in this dissertation. To facilitate the reader’s understanding, a complete list of the acronyms used and the corresponding meaning is provided below.

ALPAC Automatic Language Processing Advisory Committee
AM Account Manager
CAT Computer-Aided Translation
DTP Desktop Publishing
EBMT Example-Based Machine Translation
EPC European Patent Convention
EPO European Patent Office
EU European Union
FAMT Fully Automated Machine Translation
GDPR General Data Protection Regulation
HAMT Human Aided Machine Translation
HT Human Translation
IBM International Business Machines
INID Internationally Agreed Numbers for the Identification of Data
IP Intellectual Property
IPC International Patent Classification
IPO Intellectual Property Office
IT Information Technology
KPI Key Performance Indicator
LSP Language Service Providers
MAHT Machine Aided Human Translation
MT Machine Translation
NMT Neural Machine Translation
OCR Optical Character Recognition
PCT Patent Corporation Treaty
PM Project Manager
R&D Research & Development
RBMT Rule-Based Machine Translation
SL Source Language
SMT Statistical Machine Translation
TA Target Audience
TB Termbase
TL Target Language
TM Translation Memory
TU Translation Unit
UIBM Ufficio Italiano Brevetti e Marchi (Italian Patent and Trademark Office)
USPTO United States Patent and Trademark Office
WIPO World Intellectual Property Organization


Al termine di un importante percorso formativo come quello universitario, è doveroso ringraziare chi, in qualche modo, ha contribuito al raggiungimento di tale obiettivo.  Un sentito ringraziamento va ai docenti, relatore e correlatore, che hanno accolto la proposta di realizzare uno studio sulla traduzione brevettuale. In particolare, sento di dover ringraziare il professor Marco Zappatore per avermi guidato con preziosi consigli nella stesura del presente elaborato e per essersi dimostrato sempre gentile, disponibile e al contempo sinceramente interessato alla tematica scelta e allo sviluppo dello studio condotto.

Un affettuoso, e forse inaspettato, ringraziamento va anche alla professoressa Anna Maria Lacovara, mia docente di lingua inglese per tutta la durata della Scuola Secondaria di primo grado e, da allora, punto di riferimento. A soli 11 anni mi ha fatto innamorare della lingua inglese e, con i suoi insegnamenti e il suo affetto quasi materno, è stata ispirazione per questo percorso di studi.

Sento di dover ringraziare con tutto il cuore anche il mio ragazzo Carlo e tutta la mia famiglia che, in questi anni, mi hanno sostenuto e mi sono stati vicini anche quando ero fisicamente lontano. In realtà ci sarebbero tanti altri motivi per cui dovrei ringraziarli, ma sicuramente col tempo avrò occasione per dimostrare concretamente la mia gratitudine nei loro confronti.

Infine, Maria Bruna, Adriana, Antonello, Federica, Silvana, Felice, Sabrina, Giuseppe, Nico, Flavia, Angelo, Roberta, Federico, Ramona, Andrea, Noemi, Annalisa, Cristina, Monica, Francesca, Anna, Giulia, sono solo alcuni degli amici che meritano di essere ringraziati per aver reso più belli questi anni.