That’s it.

No, really.

Translate everything. I’m serious.

With a very short list of exceptions (see below), if your destination country never had the Union Jack flying over it, yes, counsel, you’re going to have to translate that thing.

In. Its. Entirety.

This is not something to jack with. To elaborate…

1) If it has to be served, it has to be translated. Every word, every page.

So make sure that, while you serve everything that’s required, you omit anything that’s not required. This is the element of service abroad that is easiest to control, but it necessitates careful planning before you file. Once you pull the trigger, I can’t help you rein in that portion of the bill.

2) “But… my defendant speaks English.”

Doesn’t matter. It’s not about the defendant. It’s about the bureaucrats handling the service request and the simple fact that just about every country out there requires that the docs be served in its own language.

3) “But I’ve got a 150-page complaint and six patents to serve!”

Sorry. Brace yourself to write a very large check. But tuck this practice tip in your back pocket for next time.

4) “How about if we just translate the summons and complaint, but not the exhibits?

Nope. Sorry. See #1 above.

I’ve had prospective clients walk away from our conversation and decide to go against my advice. Months later, my phone rings…

5) “How about if we just don’t serve the Exhibits?”

Sorry again. See Rule 10(c). Exhibits are part of the Complaint, so if you leave them out, you’re facing a very quick, and very reasonable, 12(b)(4) motion. Similar result in state court, too. This is truly not the hill you want to die on.

6) “Good grief. That means a five-figure translation bill!”

Yep. It sure does. I’ve had healthy six-figure translation bills roll across my desk, but requirements are requirements. Best takeaway: always keep it short, counsel.


(Recognizing, of course, that Due Process and Natural Justice questions still apply under forum rules!)

  • The Netherlands. They don’t technically require translation into Dutch, but you still run the risk that a random bailiff will (erroneously) tell the defendant they can reject documents served in English alone. We have ways around the problem– just sayin’.
  • Belgium. Ibid, but with Dutch (Flemish) and French, and maybe even German, depending on where the defendant is located. We have ways here, too.
  • Denmark. Sort of. The Danes don’t technically require translation, but their bailiffs are required to tell the defendant they can reject the service without a Danish version! I’ve had clients roll the dice– some won, some shot craps.
  • Israel. Also, sort of. In the Palestinian Territories, Arabic and Hebrew will be required.
  • Québec. Technically, once had the Union Jack flying over it, but those folks are forever fiercely Francophone… yet we can get around the translation issue if we’re creative.