Mandarin to English Translation Services for Litigation
As commerce grows more and more international, language is becoming a central part of lawsuits. While English is the language of business around the world, more and more people speak more than one language or rely on a foreign language translation. This is especially true in legal cases that involve multiple languages and multiple countries. Because China is a major trading partner with the United States, more and more lawsuits in the United States involve Chinese companies – meaning that professional Chinese to English translation services become a very critical issue.
Take, for example, a recent class-action lawsuit that was filed in a US District Court in the Eastern District of New York. The lawsuit was against Chinese manufacturers of vitamin C. According to the lawsuit, several Chinese companies formed a cartel and worked to fix prices by regulating the production levels of vitamin C in China. The lawsuit was filed by a group of companies in the United States that purchased vitamin C from the manufacturers in China.
Language translation was clearly an issue in the lawsuit as all the manufacturing companies were based in China. It was the first time a case in the United States involved Chinese corporate defendants, several of which had limited English skills. The case was so important that the Chinese government filed an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court” brief in the case.
The case was assigned to the US District Judge Brian Cogan through a random process after the first judge in the case died. Cogan speaks fluent Chinese and said from the bench that his Chinese language skills would probably be utilized in the case.
In 2013, the jury awarded the plaintiffs in the case $162 million. Much of the testimony was in Chinese, and the court had to rely on the services of a Mandarin Chinese court interpreter. The case had major implications for foreign companies doing business in the United States. It showed that the US courts had jurisdiction over foreign companies even though all of the price-fixing activity took place in China. It set a precedent that the US courts can become involved when products are sold in the United States.
Cogan agreed with the jury’s judgment and wrote, “The three doctrines upon which defendants rely recognize that a foreign national should not be placed between the rock of its own local law and the hard place of US law. Here, there is no rock and no hard place.”
Several other recent lawsuits have also involved the Chinese language. Eight New York-based writers and video producers filed a lawsuit against the Chinese company Baidu, sometimes called the China’s Google, in the US District Court. It is the fifth most visited website in the world. The lawsuit claimed the company created algorithms that blocked viewers in the US from viewing material that advocated for democracy in China. The blocked material was mostly written or produced in Chinese. The lawsuit claimed that the actions by Baidu violated the Constitution.
The US District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan dismissed the case. He said the search engine was using protected free speech when it created the algorithms. He likened the search engine results to a newspaper editor who makes editorial judgments on which articles to place in the newspaper. The writers and video producers planned to appeal the decision.
The lawsuits pertaining to doing business with China flow both ways. Another lawsuit was recently filed recently in China that involved the use of the Chinese language. The Chinese company Jiangsu Xueba filed a patent lawsuit against the Bay Area giant Apple. The suit claimed the Jiangsu Xueba had already trademarked the term Snow Leopard, the term for Apple’s most recent operating system, in Chinese. The lawsuit sought $80,000 from Apple. The Chinese word for Snow Leopard is Xuebao, but Apple says it planned to only use the English version of the name in its Chinese product marketing materials.