Consideration of Quality, Cost, Agency regarding Japanese Translation

When you consider filing a patent application in Japan, we understand that the translation cost would be a major bottleneck.  The market price for translation from English into Japanese has decreased drastically over the past few decades, but we agree it is still expensive.  However, we believe it advisable to prepare a high-quality translation at the filing stage, in order to save subsequent prosecution costs and to obtain a strong patent.

1. What document should be translated when entering PCT national phase? 

When you file the national phase entry of a PCT application into Japan, it is basically required to submit a faithful translation of the original PCT application, including claims, specification, figures, etc.  No sworn translation is required.

We are sometimes requested to submit amendments of claims and/or specification of a PCT application which were made in the international phase or are proposed for the

national phase entry.  Further, we sometimes receive Substitute Sheets of the PCT application without the originally filed documents.  However, we make it a rule to translate the original documents and to refrain from translating any amendments at the time of entering the national phase so that we can avoid the possibility of putting a reason for rejection or invalidation into the application. 

2. Transition of Japanese Translation Rates charged by IP Firms

Until 20 years ago, Japanese IP firms usually charged unit translation cost of around 48 – 50 JPY (per English word), which is unbelievable in today’s environment.  Then, until 10 years ago, the translation cost has decreased to around 35 – 42 JPY (per English word), which we think some firms still apply.  Over the past decade, the translation cost has further decreased and ended up a unit cost of around 30 JPY (per English word).

3. Translation Agencies

We are aware that there are many translation agencies/companies in Japan, Korea, China, etc., that offer inexpensive translation rates, unit translation cost of around 15 – 20 JPY (per English word).

The translation fees offered by such agencies are usually 30 – 50 % lower than those of IP firms, and therefore, even some of our overseas clients use such agencies and prepare Japanese translations at their ends to save translation cost.  In such cases, we basically submit the Japanese translation as received to avoid incurring any additional expenses.

However, please note that most of the Japanese translations prepared by such agencies are inferior in quality and do not satisfy the JPO’s strict formality requirements.  Hence, we have to revise the Japanese translation regarding several garbled characters included therein, chemical formulae, and figures, in order to satisfy the JPO’s formality requirements.  Except for cases of serious mistranslations, we do such formalities check at no cost.

Nevertheless, even if the initial translation costs appear to be relatively low, costly attorney’s fees will often be incurred later, since we will definitely receive unnecessary Office Actions based on clarity requirements, support requirements and enablement requirements. 

4. AI Translation

Some of the translation agencies recently use AI translation.  The translation speed is of course very high and the translation fee is extremely low, only 1 JPY (per English word).  We have made trial of AI translation systems on some of our clients’ cases and carefully checked and reviewed the translation results.  However, we found that AI translation still do not satisfy our demands in terms of quality, security, etc.

5. Review – Merits and Demerits

Most of the other IP firms usually retain inhouse translators and we understand they usually provide high-quality translations.  The demerit of IP firms’ translation is the expensive translation cost.  Although some of them already do this, we think that the translation should at least be reviewed and revised by the patent attorney who will be handling prosecution of the case.

At our firm, when we receive a new case, we designate a patent attorney for each case and he/she will be responsible for handling the case entirely from the filing of an application through prosecution.  Accordingly, the attorney who will be handling prosecution of the case prepare the Japanese translation by himself/herself, ensuring that future prosecution will be conducted smoothly and reliably.  We believe we can provide our clients with not only translations of text, but translations which are also superior in terms of technical and legal qualities.  Further, we think that our translation fees are competitive with those charged by other Japanese patent law firms.  The demerit of our procedure is that we cannot accommodate many cases at once.

Meanwhile, if you still wish to continue preparing Japanese translation at your end by use of translation agencies/companies to save translation cost, we will of course be happy to review and revise them to conform to the JPO’s formalities and we will basically not charge additional fees incurred due to such revisions.  However, please understand that there is a possibility that we receive unnecessary office actions and additional attorney’s fees might be incurred later.