A question recently came across my desk that deals specifically with contracts, but the response applies equally to intellectual property matters before the courts or the administrative system. The question is “Are agreements written in a foreign language enforceable in American courts?”
An agreement written in a foreign language may indeed be enforced in US courts. The only difference is that unless the finder of fact (judge or jury) is fluent in the language in which the contract is written, the document must be translated and the translation certified as being as accurate as possible. Otherwise, all the claptrap of the legal system applies to foreign-language contracts, just as it applies to English-language contracts: the court in which the plaintiff brings the case must have jurisdiction over both the subject matter of the case and the defendant, the particular law governing the contract must be determined, and so on.
The same applies to an application for patent, trademark or copyright in the US. The invention, business goodwill, or work of authorship may well be protectable in the USA, but the agency demands that a foreign-language application be accompanied by a translation and the translator’s certification of the translation to allow the agency and the public to read the document with the same degree of ease with which they read documents originally written in English.