The last quarterly newsletter of the European Patent Office (EPO) has an interesting article about the difficulty for foreign patent applicants to determine prior art (state of the art) in China, because all prior art in China is in Chinese. To determine prior art is crucial, because the patent can only be granted to an invention that is both new and inventive. So what is already known and what is new in China if you cannot search in and read Chinese? Machine tranlations are expected to be possible in three years time.Mr. Ruud Peters, CEO of Philips Intellectual Property and Standards, who spoke at the EPO Patent Information Conference in Riga criticised "missing out the increasingly large collection of Chinese prior art". The translations of only the claims from Chinese into English is estimated to be 15 million euro per year. The EPO would like the funding to be done in a way that allows that the translations are published for free online, Commercial companies such as Thomson Scientific, East Linden and Beijing Zhongxian Tuofang Co. Ltd. of course want to earn money for their translations. Mr. Peters had some harsh words about the patent system in relation to China: "stifling" instead of "stimulating innovation". Then again, an amendment of the Chinese patent law is coming up, so maybe all is not so bleak.
Read the EPO article here.