Science or Art? Accurate IP Translations Need Both, Says Coombs

UnknownJeremy Coombs, senior vice president of operations at MultiLing, recently posted an article about the debate of science vs. art in IP translations on the GALA blog.

“Is translation a creative process or simply the cold “one-to-one” transformation of words from one language to another? In my experience, art wins out in most debates,” wrote Coombs.

However, specific texts, such as intellectual property documents that are very scientific in nature, will require precision and exactness. Coombs wonders if Einstein and Shakespeare can meet and whether science and art can coexist.

“When we consider translation from the perspective of science, we see many theories and models that attempt to explain communication,” continued Coombs. “For example, the Shannon and Weaver model conceptualizes communication (and translation, by extension), as a process of encoding a source message and transmitting this message to a receiver, which then decodes the message. The success of this process is determined by the receiver’s understanding of the source message.”

However,all writing is a creative process and when representing an invention, word choice is key. Coombs believes that the most skilled translators possess both the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist. Interestingly, in the patent realm when someone understands the science behind an invention they are said to be skilled in the art.

“Authors and translators learn the preferences of their audience and adapt their art and tools appropriately—including adopting technology tools such as terminology management software to ensure consistency across a team of translators.

“Invention and translation. Both processes require the thorough weaving of art and science. Leonardo da Vinci would be proud,” concluded Coombs.


Jeremy Coombs is the senior vice president of operations at MultiLing, the innovative leader in intellectual property (IP) translations and related support services for foreign patent filings. He joined MultiLing in 1999 and has become one of the company’s principal operations and technology minds. In his current role, he manages large-scale translation and localization projects for companies such as Dell, LSI Corporation, Qlogic, Intuit, and GE Healthcare.