Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 349–369 | Cite as

Multilingualism and the International Patent System: an Assessment of the Fairness of the Language Policy of WIPO

  • Michele GazzolaEmail author


This article provides an evaluation of the language policy of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), by focusing on the reform enacted in 2008 when the Korean language was given the status of a language of publication of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Results show that the 2008 reform entailed a reduction in the costs of access to the PCT procedures for Korean-speaking applicants of about 54%, generating about €24 million savings for them from 2009 to 2011. Further, the new language policy led to a more balanced distribution of admission and interaction costs among applicant countries. It is plausible that the 2008 reform has brought about a transfer of information costs from Korean-speaking countries to English-speaking countries and inventors fluent in English as a second language, but such negative effects have been offset by exogenous factors. This article shows under which conditions adding the Korean language could have had a positive impact on the cost-effectiveness of the language policy of the PCT system as well.


World intellectual property organisation Patent cooperation treaty Translation costs Language policy Korean language 

JEL Classification

H40 H89 K11 O30 O31 O34 O38 O39 O50 P48 Z18 Z19 



The author wishes to thank Gaetan de Rassenfosse, Giuseppe Fiorani, François Grin, Bruno Le Feuvre, François Vaillancourt, Alessia Volpe, the statistics service of WIPO and the referees for their useful remarks and valuable help. The author is the only responsible for any errors that may remain and for the views expressed in the article. The financial support from the Research Executive Agency of the European Commission (Project number PIEF-GA-2012-327225) and from the Swiss National Science Foundation (project PBGEP1-136158 and project PBGEP1-145655) is gratefully acknowledged.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Disclosure Statement

There is no financial interest or benefit arising to the author from the direct application of this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Group Economics and Language (REAL), Department of Education StudiesHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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