Even minor errors in a legal translation can render a legal agreement void. Patents, trademarks and copyrights can be rendered invalid if there is a chance of miscommunication or they are too vague, as can sales deeds, certificates and contracts. Even the slightest error can lead to heavy damages.

As international business and global commerce rates rise, the need for multilingual contracts, patents and other legal documents is rapidly growing. Don’t leave the security of your business’ intellectual property to chance when it comes to filing an international patent. Use the resources of specialised legal translation services to make sure your business doesn’t face legal disputes later down the line.

The importance of legal translators in business

A translator faces serious challenges when working on any kind of legal translation or assignment: to deliver a translation that is perfectly accurate and can be upheld in a legal dispute. Legal translations must therefore be meticulous, because often liberties and justice are at stake.

A key issue that has surfaced for businesses has been the quality of the translations in international patent applications. In the case of Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. v Barr Laboratories, Inc. in the US, Mitsubishi brought action against Barr for patent infringement or their patent covering the formulation of Argatroban Injection, a lifesaving drug for the treatment of Heparin-Induced Thrombocytopenia (HIT).

The disputed translation of a single sentence in a document describing the patented chemical solution in the original Japanese text resulted in the entire patent being invalidated when brought before US federal court.

In 2015, the Korean Supreme Court ruled to invalidate the original Duoback chair patent based on a faulty Korean translation of the German original when the international patent was filed. A plaintiff in the South Korean Supreme Court argued that the innacurate German to Korean translation of the Duoback chair patent rendered the it invalid in South Korea.

How are legal translations validated?

Legal translations are one of the most difficult branches of the translating and interpreting professions, not only because the translations produced must be flawless, but also because each country has its own unique legal system and legal terms.

Quality certifications have become the norm for translation agencies available for legal translation services. The standard is an ISO 9001:2008 or ISO 9001:2015 and EN 15038 certification, which means it possesses demonstrable ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

Global Voices, a London-based certified translation agency specialising in Corporate Law, Patent and Intellectual Property translations, explain: “In the UK, a translation can be certified or notarised in three ways. These are: basic certification, sworn certification and legalisation also known as an Apostille.” The type required depends on the nature of the document and its use.

How do legal translations differ from regular translations?

In all cases, translators must therefore also overcome the cultural barriers that exist between the source language and target language. In the case of legal translations, this is of heightened importance as the law is considered an expression of a country’s culture communicated through legal language.

Such is the importance of accuracy when it comes to legal translations that it requires highly specialised professionals with a great deal of training and experience in the field. Lawlinguists is an example of a translation agency created exclusively “by lawyers for lawyers” in 2011. The network consists of professional lawyers all admitted to a BAR association and versed in their own legal fields of their native country.

Ensuring a quality legal interpretation or translation is delivered is vital to seeing to it that the intellectual property law is upheld and that justice is served.