Why should you know a little more about Intellectual Property too?

Events are maybe the best way to get to know interesting people and learn about new things. Or, at least, those things that you have never considered learning before. The opportunity to join the Global IP ConfEx — next Wednesday, in London —, representing ASTW Specialised Translation, means a chance to dive in a world of which, until a few months ago, I completely ignored the existence: Intellectual Property.

10 years as a translator, and a translation project from the IP world never crossed my way. Surely projects from various fields, as Life Sciences — as Pharma, Medical devices —, to Marketing, Business, E-learning, and so on. Presumably, one can say I have translated from many fields. Nevertheless, subjects as Patents, Trademark, Brand Protection, Patent Search, and such, were never among these. Even though they are part of our lives, from objects of daily use, to logos we see everywhere, to the music we hear.

May 2022, I arrived to ASTW Specialised Translation. After a year working with Information Technology — now I am wondering whether they had or had not patented their neural network they had created themselves! — approached by the CEO, he says: “our strength resides in mainly two points: science and patents. I cannot count the number of patents we have already translated in the last 10 years.” As soon as the word “patent” came out of his month, I could not think of another word but “strange”. It never came to my mind the possibility of translating patent documentation.

However, patents are so needed as their translations. According to WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, there are more than two hundred IP treaties. Considering each country with its own set of rules to govern the procedures and that not everybody knows how to speak English, nor Spanish, nor German, etc., these documents need to be translated. Partially or totally, depending on the country and on the agreement in force. A wrong translation can even cost the applicant, in the worst case-scenario, the lost of the rights to benefit from the protection that a patent, a registration, can provide.

The Unitary Patent, the last IP agreement approved this year, gives to the applicant the possibility of filing one document only to obtain the patent for the 25 countries, at once. Throughout the years, decades, costs reduction with filing procedures and, above all, with translation was always on the agenda. Translation represents a huge slice of the pie of total costs with a registration, surely. In case of problems, though, you lose your rights in all 25 countries, at once. Other agreements might be a little more cumbersome, though the chances of losing the rights to benefit from your own invention, trademark, design, are smaller. Always in the worst case-scenario, you lose your rights to benefit from your logo in Italy, but you can still benefit from it in England, for instance.

Funny thing: not everything is patentable! Besides the huge number of IP treaties, some things are excluded if they do not meet the following criteria: novelty or innovation, inventive activity, and industrial application. So, a mathematical theory, scientific theories, discoveries, mental tasks procedures, art. Yes, art. In that case, you have the “copyright”, which is nonetheless a type of protection as well. It protects literary works, music, and here is what makes me wonder why I have never thought about patents: whether you write a book, a play, or a song, they must undergo the copyright procedures.

Otherwise, artists may discover they have been copied. Plagiarism. How many cases we know from music, for instance; songs that are, sometimes, copy and paste of other old and not that old songs? YouTube is filled with videos about these stories and cases that went to court and took decades to get into an agreement between both parts. An example from a case: Chuck Berry vs. The Beach Boys, a case that endured more than 50 years.  

On my way to learn about Intellectual Property and how much it has to do with our daily lives, last May, two weeks after initiating my diving into IP, I had the chance to join an online webinar. Jakub Mrozowski, LL.C., from the European Union Intellectual Property Office, was talking about the many problems you can run into, without even knowing: sometimes you just came up to the same idea as someone else who is ten thousand kilometres away from you.

Either you create deliberately a design, or a logo, which recalls the idea of another famous one, or you just had the same idea as someone else and when registering, surprise! Likelihood of confusion can be a reason for a long litigation. Which needs to be translated as well. Litigation, in these cases, takes into consideration many factors, as the date of registration, and how misleading is something. It means, how much a copycat is deceiving for clients. At the end, a patent, a registration, a copyright, not only protects the creator. It represents a protection for consumers as well.

In conclusion, the reason you should know a bit more about patents, about Intellectual Property, is because it is everywhere. From the food you buy, to the clothes you wear, to the TV shows, or online videos, you watch, to every single thing you can benefit from. Either you are the creator or the consumer, you have the right to benefit from your work without anyone else getting shortcuts to get to success, having you worked so hard. Or the right to not being tricked into something that seems like, but it not indeed what you wanted and paid, in the first place.