Stanford University Law School professor Mark Lemley coined the phrase “anecdata” to describe much of the information that was traditionally used in intellectual property cases. One lawyer heard from another lawyer that a particular judge usually ruled favorably toward alleged infringers, or someone heard it through the grapevine that a particular firm was adept at handling IP cases. This information was, of course, not always precise or accurate, and hinging an important aspect of a case on this sort of data meant taking a real risk at a time when that might not have been the wisest decision.
What, then, is the solution to this dilemma? Until recently, there had been a glaring lack of a solution that could provide lawyers with actionable data to help prepare for an intellectual property case. Seeing a problem in need of a solution, a group from Stanford raised funds from large companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, Qualcomm and others and created a software solution that could mine and tag events to help provide the right kind of data that lawyers could use.
After spinning off the business from Stanford, the newly formed Lex Machina kept its social mission – providing free services for academics, judges and the federal government – while proving use cases for both law firms and in-house attorneys. And, says Josh Becker, CEO of the company, there are quite a few use cases indeed, such as:
- Early case assessment: If companies get a desist letter, they can investigate who sent it, and who their attorneys are.
- General strategy: Information on the venue, the judge, etc.
- Peer benchmarking: Companies can compare themselves to their competitors to see if they are settling more, if they are sued more, etc.
In addition, companies can use the software to examine cases based on a number of different criteria. They can see patent prosecution cases on particular topics (say, stem cells); they can research licenses, finding and evaluating them. Lex Machina also boasts a patent similarity engine as one of its “patent powertools,” as Becker describes them. This engine finds other similar patents that have been litigated and gives the outcomes of those cases. In-house counsel can also use Lex Machina to help with budgeting, learning time-to-trial info, for example.
The software-as-a-service solution is Web-based and optimized for patent information, while still giving data on trademarks, copyrights and antitrust cases. It features a personalized landing page for each user and boasts easy-to-use tabs that allow for simple navigation.
With a few clicks, users can look at their current cases, their active clients and much more. On the “Courts and Judges” tab, users can get information on a judge, including time-to-trial, a summary of his or her cases and more. The solution gives patent outcomes in 18 categories, telling who won, the settlement and other pertinent information. Users can even click through to PDFs of important documents. With other tabs, users can see what their competitors are up to; examine cases by district, judge and other criteria; generate patent reports based on their client lists; and a lot more.
It has an interactive, simple user interface and, more importantly, it provides real, useful data that lawyers can use to make informed decision and ultimately make their jobs easier. And isn’t that what it’s all about, after all.
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