The language policy of international organizations can have different allocative and distributive effects that must be evaluated. The choice of the official languages of a patent office, for example, may create inequalities between the costs incurred by inventors in accessing intellectual property protection; translation policy may affect the distribution and dissemination of patent information among inventors; finally, language policy can influence the results of innovations and the international competitiveness of companies. Despite this, the role of multilingualism in IP protection policies has remained relatively unexplored in the literature and few systematic attempts have been made to characterize (let alone evaluate) the language policies of IP organizations such as: having the ability to affect the efficiency of innovation processes and generate winners and losers.
This presentation addressed the allocative and distributive effects of language policy in intellectual property organizations in general, then examined the case of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which is part of the United Nations system, and of the European Patent Office (EPO). Both organizations provide an appropriate context for comparative analyzes. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), administered by WIPO, has ten official languages (or "languages of publication"), namely German, English, Arabic, Chinese, Korean , Spanish, French, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian. The language regime of the EPO includes only three official languages, namely English, French and German. A comparison between different language policies shows under what conditions more multilingualism can be both more profitable and more equitable than monolingualism.