As reported yesterday, legal tech giant Thomson Reuters is suing NLP-driven legal research company, ROSS, on the basis that they believe their unique West Key Number System (WKNS) and West Headnotes was used without their permission.
See ROSS’s response to this here.
The debacle got AL thinking about the privatisation of public court records, but it’s fair to say this is not the core issue in terms of this case, at least in terms of the legal arguments made, which revolve around classification and organisation of TR’s data.
This is what TR is alleging (case here) – filed in the District Court of Delaware. Below passages are the allegations:
‘ROSS is attempting to create a business by taking for itself critical features of Westlaw, without permission from or compensation to Plaintiffs. …. The net result is that Plaintiffs are now being put in the unfair position of having to compete with a product that they unknowingly helped create.
‘…..to create a legal research platform that could compete with Westlaw, ROSS needed to acquire vast amounts of legal content, descriptions of that content, and a means by which to organize that legal content. ROSS knew that it would not be granted access to Westlaw for such a purpose, so instead ROSS opted to gain access to Westlaw through deceitful and undisclosed tactics.
‘Upon information and belief, to develop its platform, ROSS contracted with LegalEase—a legal research and writing support services company. Because LegalEase only provides research and writing services, not a competing legal research product like ROSS does, it was able to obtain a limited license beginning in 2008 to use Westlaw to conduct legal research for customers. The Service Agreement between LegalEase and West prohibited LegalEase from running or installing any computer software on West’s products or network, as well as selling, sublicensing, distributing, displaying, storing, or transferring Westlaw information in bulk to third parties.
‘…similar to Westlaw, the ROSS platform provides users with case summaries and treatments, as well as allows the user to use the initial search results as a jumping-off point to find additional cases with similar facts and/or procedural postures.’
Closely related recent supreme court decision.