Free Machine Translations from the JPO

Using Machine Translations at the Japanese Patent Office

In March of 2000, with very little fanfare, the Japanese Patent Office launched its online machine translation (MT) service. This service let anyone access computer-generated English versions of all unexamined Japanese patent applications published later than 1992. The service is free of charge. Machine translations are not available for applications published before 1992, because applications were not filed as electronic text at that time.

MT is very useful when the English abstract does not give enough information for you to decide if a human translation is necessary. The Japanese Patent Office MT service is particularly valuable, because the machine translations are available in real time. Keep in mind, however, that machine translations should never be used as a basis for important decisions. Not only is MT output hard to read, but it can often be very misleading. MT is useful only to give you an idea of what is being disclosed and to help you to decide which parts, if any, need to be translated by a human.

Using the MT retrieval interface at the JPO can be a little tricky until you get used to it. In the following tutorial, we give you a step by step guide to using the system. We hope that once you've found the machine translations you need, you will keep Patent Translations Inc. in mind when ordering your human translations. We are another good way to lower your costs and improve your efficiency!

1. Before You Log On

First, you will need to know the Publication Number of the document that you are interested in and how to enter it in the proper format. The Japanese use different numbering systems for Unexamined Applications (also known as 'A Publications' or Kokai) and Granted Patents (also known as 'B Publications'). Machine translations are only available for Unexamined Applications, so that is the numbering system we will describe here. If all you have is a number, and you don't know whether it is an A or a B publication, the chances are that it is an A publication. Remember also that if you are having trouble figuring out Japanese publication numbers or tracking down a Japanese patent, you can give us a call at 1-800-844-0494. We are happy to help.

All Kokai numbers between 1992-1999 begin with a two-digit year code. In 1992 the year code was 05, and in 1999 the year code was 12. If your publication number starts with a number less than 05, no machine translation will be available for it. Likewise, if the publication number starts with a number greater than 12 but less than 2000, it is an old document and no machine translation will be available for it. Starting in the year 2000, however, this two-digit year code was replaced by the 4 digit year itself. So, for example, all Kokai published in the year 2001 start with the number 2001, which makes things less confusing. The second part of the publication number is always a six-digit serial number, from 000001 to 999999.

None of this would be very difficult if everyone wrote these numbers the same way. Unfortunately, almost every patent search service seems to write these numbers in a slightly different way. Here are some examples of how the same number can be written in different ways.



When you use the JPO machine translation service, you must enter the number as a two- or four-digit year followed by a six-digit serial number. In other words, you must add any missing zeros so that the number you enter looks like this:

or like this:

Now that you have the right number in the proper format, you are ready to access your machine translation.

2. Getting There

To access the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) machine translation service, go to (Keep in mind that it is not unusual for this server to be unavailable in the mornings before about 1 p.m. Eastern Time, as that is when data uploads are done in Japan.)

You should see the following screen:

This first screen serves the primary purpose of taking us to the number search screen. You may want to bookmark this page.

Now press the "Number Search" button, which is circled in the screen shot.

The following screen appears:

It might seem like a good idea to bookmark this screen, but the JPO server is set up so that direct bookmarks to this screen do not work properly. You must always access this screen by pressing the "Number Search" button in the previous screen.

3. Entering the Publication Number

Select the radio button next to "Publication Number" (circled in the screen shot). Then type in the number in the space provided (arrow in the screen shot). Remember this is the Kokai number that we talked about above.

(It is possible to enter several publication numbers, leaving a space between each number. But we will show just one in this example.)

Next, click on the search button, and the following screen should appear.

As we only entered one publication number, there is only one item in the list to choose from. Click on the publication number at the left side of the screen (circled in the screen shot).

4. Moving to the Machine Translation

You should now be looking at a screen like the one below.

This is the patent abstract, which includes some bibliographical information and information on the legal status of the application. This is a good place to make sure that you have called up the right document.

Once you have checked this, click on the DETAIL button (circled in the screen shot), to open the machine translation. The machine translation is produced in real time, so it can take several minutes for it to load. Your browser will open a new window for the machine translation. It should look like the one shown below.

There are two frames with yellow backgrounds. The top one is used to move to different parts of the document. The bottom one is where the machine translation is displayed.

When the window first opens, only the MT output for the claims section is shown. In this example, there are only two claims, and we do not need to scroll to see them, but for applications with more claims, you may need to scroll down, and you may need to wait several minutes for all of the MT claims to load. If you don't see "[Translation done.]" at the bottom, the MT is still being processed. It is easy to forget this and retrieve only a partial machine translation, so please keep it in mind.

5. Navigating the Machine Translation

Because it takes some time to access these machine translations, and the server is sometimes unavailable, we strongly recommend that you save the MT output so that you can work with it offline. The best way to do this is to select the text with your cursor, copy it to your clipboard, and then paste it into a word processor.

In this example, we would copy and paste the following text:

[Claim 1] Extraction coloring matter which consists of an n-butanol extract of a JIOSUKOREA ARATA rhizophore.
[Claim 2] Extraction coloring matter which consists of a hydrochloric-acid content methanol extract of JIOSUKOREA ARATA.

Now we are ready to move to the next section. To do so, click on the link in the top yellow frame called DETAILED DESCRIPTION (pink in the screenshot). You should see the following screen.

Scroll down, and make sure that you see "[Translation done.]" at the bottom before you copy and paste the detailed description into your word processor.

You have probably noticed that there are also links to TECHNICAL FIELD, PRIOR ART, EFFECT OF THE INVENTION, TECHNICAL PROBLEM, MEANS, and EXAMPLE in the top frame. These are subsections of the DETAILED DESCRIPTION section, so there is no need to click on each of these links.

You have now retrieved a machine translation of the entire application with the exception of the drawings. We talk about the drawings next.

6. Working with Drawings

In the previous 4 sections of this tutorial, we looked at an example without drawings. Let's take a look at 2000-189827 as an example of an application that has drawings. We navigate exactly as we did in the example above so that, when we get to the DETAILED DESCRIPTION, the screen looks like the one below.

You will notice that there are two additional sections in this MT: DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS and DRAWINGS. You can also display the drawings in the right-hand frame.

First, click on DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS (pink in the screenshot). You should see the following screen.

Copy and paste the description of the drawings into your word processor, just as you will have done with the CLAIMS section and the DETAILED DESCRIPTION section.

Next, it is convenient to copy and paste the drawings themselves. Rather than use the right-hand frame for this, you will save time by clicking on the DRAWINGS link, which is the last link in the top frame. You should see the following screen.

You can drag with your mouse to select all of the drawings at one time, and then copy and paste this drawing section just as you did with the text sections.

Now you have the whole document. It may seem like there are a lot of steps, but with a little practice you can do all of this in about five minutes.

Next, we'll say a few things about reading and working with machine translations.

7. Using Machine Translations

The quality of machine translations depends a lot on luck. Simple, unambiguous sentences often come out quite well. Longer sentences are more likely to be garbled. But even short sentences can result in nonsense if they contain ambiguous language.

In our first example, the MT output for claim 1 was, "Extraction coloring matter which consists of an n-butanol extract of a JIOSUKOREA ARATA rhizophore." A human translator might render this as, "A colorant extract comprising an n-butanol extract of a Jiosukorea Arata rhizophore." In this case the MT output was quite accurate, and quite easy to read.

In most cases, however, MT output is more difficult to read. Let's take a look at the detailed description for our second example application, which was for a garbage disposal.

[Detailed Description of the Invention]
[The technical field to which invention belongs] This invention crushes the garbage generated in a kitchen, and relates to improvement of the rotary knife of a disposer which makes these flow out of the exhaust port of a sink into a garbage treatment facility, a sewer pipe, etc. separately.

It's a little rough - at first glance it seems to be describing knives flowing into sewers - but what is important is that we can understand that the invention relates to the blades of a garbage disposal and not, for example, to a lid or a switch, or a method of installing a garbage disposal. The machine translation is useful because it tells us what the application is about.

Now let's take a very quick look at the MT claims for the same application.

[Claim 1] with the rotary knife for garbage spallation rotated by the motor in housing which contains attachment **** casing and a stationary knife between the sinks and drain pipes of the sink of a kitchen Between the stationary knives which prepared the disk side top proper place of a rotary knife the blow edge in which itself circles to a rotary knife by the pivot, and were prepared in the housing internal surface In the disposer which crushed garbage finely a blow edge the sector which made the pivot the important point -- and the crevice which forms so that it may become thick toward a periphery, looks at from the blow edge on the disk side of the rotary knife which is pivoting this blow edge, and is produced between this blow edge and the aforementioned rotary knife ahead [ of a rotary knife / hand-of-cut ] -- a wrap -- like The disposer characterized by fixing the protector to which the hand-of-cut anterior of a rotary knife curved.

We can still get some idea of what parts are being discussed, but nobody would be able to understand what is being claimed. At this point, you must decide if the application has enough relevance to your case to make it worthwhile ordering a human translation.

Patent Translations Inc. provides high-quality human translations, including certified translations for use in court. We can also translate any specific sections of an application which you feel are relevant. With machine translation, you can often get a good enough idea of the content to know that you are only interested in, for example, the second embodiment of the invention.

To get a free quote on the cost of translating an entire application, use our online form. To get a quote on translating specific parts, give us a call at 1-800-844-0494.

We hope that this tutorial was useful. If you have any questions regarding machine translations, or anything else for that matter, please do not hesitate to contact us. We love hearing from other people in the Intellectual Property community.