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Prevalence of patents for litigation support software

At LegalTech in New York City, I was struck by how many litigation-support software vendors referred to their patents on software, “technology,” or algorithms. I noted Attenex (“suppression and de-duping technology”), Dolphin Search (“neural network technology”), Discovery Mining (“cluster computing technology”) and MetaLINCS (“algorithms for culling, de-duping and indexing”), and undoubtedly missed others.

Although a post on this intellectual property may seem remote from law department management, there are some links. One connection is that the patented software must necessarily be proprietary – as compared to open source – so a licensee law department needs to recognize that legal complexity. A second link is that the vendors in this field are competing mightily, which means many won’t survive and many more will merge or morph, possibly leaving law departments high and dry. Third, the patina of a patent may either distract a shopper or properly lure them. Finally, where there are patents, there are infringement risks, which are risks that anyone who has licensed the patented technology buys into (cf. Blackberry from RIM).

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