Not many might remember this, but in “ancient times” before the Internet became a common daily tool for the everyman, patent translators basically used the power of their muscles and relied on technologies such as the fax, which produced blotchy 90 dots per inch images at best.
This was true especially for those patent translators who worked on documents coming from such places as Germany or Japan. There was much grinding of the teeth, and the long-distance nature of the job made sure that there would be a fair amount of frustration thrown into the mix as well. But fast forward to a few decades, and now in 2011, everything seems incredibly easy with the Internet.
While in the 1980s, patent translators had to ask their counterparts in their source country (like Japan) to send them by fax a copy of the patent document, these days all a patent translator must do is know the right website where they can freely download a specific patent document. All one needs is the patent number, and voila! Instantly you can get a legible copy of the document you must translate.
Perhaps one can appreciate this “advancement” when one considers the fact that in those pre-internet days, aside from the fax, patent translators had to rely on door-to-door delivery (or Fedex). This would mean of course a downtime of two or three days as the translator awaits the document to arrive—which means during those empty days, the translator would not be earning anything. And when the Fedex finally arrived, the document it contained sometimes would not be legible enough for one to work on. The sheer amount of back and forth might be maddening and frustrating.
These days, one no longer has to suffer blotchy faxed documents or downtime in-between waiting for the Fedex to come. With the internet, patent translators can use all the power of their knowledge to be able to accomplish much more than they did using the old ways. Among the most useful online resources when it comes to obtaining legible copies of patents is the one that is maintained by the Japanese Patent Office.
This is not surprising: Japan is among the countries in the world where patent filings are like flipping pancakes. The said country is also among the highest sources of income for patent translators—patents filed in Japan are of course often must be also filed in other countries such as the USA and Germany, and such patents can be filed only after they have been thoroughly translated, their accuracy ensured.
The bottom line is that the Internet, like all modern tools, has helped patent translating professional become proactive. They are no longer “passive” recipients of job orders, but instead, they can easily “hunt for prey” online with the use of online resources that are designed to increase their efficiency at what they do.
Distance no longer matters, which means one is no longer limited to the company of fellow translators who might be living near your area of residence. They can also network with other patent translators working in similar fields, enabling them to compare war stories, fees and rates, and maybe just chitchat–all in the comfort of their own homes.
Charlene Lacandazo is part of the marketing team at Rosetta Translation, a leading, full service translation agency in London, UK and Shanghai, China.
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