From the EPO website (link):
"30 November 2010
The EPO and Google have today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve access to patent translations in multiple languages.
Under the agreement, the EPO will use Google's machine translation technology to translate patents into the languages of the 38 countries that it serves. In return, it will provide Google with access to its translated patents, enabling Google to optimise its machine translation technology. Google technology will be used to translate patents originating in Europe as well as patents originating in other regions of the world and enjoying protection in Europe."
"For Google, the collaboration offers a major opportunity to improve its translation service. The EPO will offer access to around 1.5 million documents, and each year this number grows by more than 50 000 new patent grants. The partnership also covers Asian languages. Facilitating access to the rapidly increasing volumes of Japanese, Chinese and Korean technological information is one of the biggest challenges facing the global patent system."
Personally, I'm no fan of the Google patent search engine since the list of things it can not do far outweigh the little bit of functionality it provides. Adding the 1.5 million EP patents will make it more useful though and increase the need to use it as a double check (especially since our clients will be using it). If it improves Google's translation abilities with regard to patent and scientific documents, then something very good does come out of it for us.
And who knows, maybe this means that Google will someday actually improve their patent search engine...