Patent translation in the Middle East

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Zoe Laventhol & Afaf Steiert
Multilingual September 2015
Industry Focus

Chemical and pharmaceutical patent translation, particularly between Arabic and English, can be especially complex. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists, a standardizing body for organic chemistry, publishes its original standards in English. This means that the international standard incorporates English writing conventions that may not exist in other languages, such as white space and capitalization....

Computer assisted translation (CAT) tools can be very useful for the legal language of patents, as these rely heavily on literal translation. However, machine translation and spelling correction software are not ideal when translating uncommon words, or words that contain unusual letter sequences, such as chemical compound names like chloroxylenol. When translating between English and Arabic, CAT tools may also often cause formatting issues. These are easily rectified in most translations with regular sematic structure, but they can be virtually destructive when translating things such as bonds or chemical structural formula symbols in a patent translation. In particular, this requirement to constantly alternate between writing directions — left to right for English and right to left for Arabic — demands the translator’s attention to retype the segments of a compound when it is composed of Arabic transliteration, Western and Greek letters and numbers.

There is great opportunity in the translation of intellectual property documents between the English and Arabic speaking worlds. With the rise in economic and intellectual exchange between the Unites States and the Middle East, a steady increase in demand for translation between the Arabic and English languages of intellectual property literature is occurring....


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