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Translation Technology Reflects China's Growth


  The World Intellectual Property Organization has developed a new artificial intelligence-based patent document translation tool and made it available for Chinese-English translation on a public testing platform.

  The system, called WIPO Translate, is expected to provide innovators around the world with "the highest-quality" translation service, according to the organization's press release.

  The system incorporates cutting-edge neural machine translation technology to render highly technical patent documents into a second language, in a style and syntax that mirrors common usage more closely, out-performing other translation tools built with previous technologies, the press release said.

  WIPO has initially trained the new technology to translate Chinese, Japanese and Korean patent documents into English. Patent applications in those languages accounted for some 55 percent of worldwide filings in 2014.

  "One of the aims of the patent system is to get technology out there and understood. We have now taken a great step forward in making sure that happens to a universal audience and with universal sources," said WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry.

  Neural machine translation is an emerging technology based on huge neural network models that "learn" from previously translated sentences, according to WIPO.

  The specificity of neural machine translation compared to previous phrase-based statistical methods is that it produces more natural word order, with particular improvements seen in so-called distant language pairs, such as Japanese-English and Chinese-English.

  In a recent test, WIPO Translate's neural-based machine translation service substantially out-performed both the traditional statistical-based model on distant language pairs, as well as other non-WIPO translation services.

  "This breakthrough for WIPO Translate means that a vast and ever-increasing trove of patent documents will soon be more easily accessible for innovators who search these records for inspiration or technical know-how," Gurry said.

  He said the new system is the result of joint efforts from WIPO staff members and a global network of universities and researchers.

  He added that they started with Chinese because China "is rising" in patent filings. Last year, about 14 percent of international patent applications through the Patent Cooperation Treaty were filed in Chinese. Gurry expects that number to grow to 17 or 18 percent this year.

  "As part of a global trend, patent applications are increasingly being filed in East Asian languages, particularly in Chinese," said the director-general. "WIPO Translate helps ensure that state-of-the-art knowledge created in these languages is shared as widely and rapidly as possible."

  The high level of accuracy of the Chinese-English translation is the result of the training of the neural machine translation tool, which has compared 60 million sentences from Chinese patent documents provided to WIPO's database by China's State Intellectual Property Office, with their translations as filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

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