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Stanford Law School Launches IP Litigation Clearinghouse

The Law, Science & Technology Program at Stanford Law School has launched the Intellectual Property Litigation Clearinghouse (IPLC), an online database that offers comprehensive information about intellectual property (IP) disputes within the United States. This publicly available online research tool will enable users to review real-time data about IP legal disputes that have been filed across the country and ultimately to analyze the efficacy of the system that regulates patents, copyrights, trademarks, antitrust, and trade secrets.

The database includes real-time data summaries, industry indexes, and trend analysis, as well as a full-text search engine. Stanford Law School and its partner organizations that funded the development and provided industry insight are releasing the IPLC in phased modules. The first release, the Patent Litigation Module, includes 23,000 cases filed in U.S. district courts since 2000--raw data for every district court patent case and all results (outcomes and opinions).

The average patent case costs $5 million in legal fees on each side to litigate. A patent lawsuit can prevent a company from bringing a new product to market, or otherwise stall the kind of innovation that the IP system was meant to spur.

"Patent litigation is a big risk for most companies because there is great uncertainty about the outcome," said Mark Lemley, director of the Law, Science & Technology Program. "The IPLC offers searchable, accessible data on all US patent cases since 2000, so it allows lawyers to research factors in litigation and help them arrive at more rational business decisions--before they litigate. Similarly, it allows judges to define what patent terms mean based on past cases and interpretations and to rely on data to inform settlement negotiations. We built this tool in part so that lawyers and judges could get more certainty."

"But we also built this tool so that scholars and policymakers could help Congress reform the patent system in rational ways, based on what's really happening rather than our perception of what's happening," Lemley added. "For example, today there are patent reforms under consideration in Congress focused on the problem of litigation abuse which floods the courts with unnecessary litigation and holds up the true innovators. One of the most talked about examples of this abuse is the phenomenon of 'patent trolls.' But no one can agree on how many trolls there are out there.... The IPLC offers us the data we need to do empirical analysis and develop the best possible reforms."

Already, Lemley has used the data from the IPLC to run a number of empirical studies. He has recently co-authored a working paper with Christopher Cotropia, associate professor of law at University of Richmond School of Law, which debunks the notion that a high number of patent cases brought by plaintiffs involve copying or theft, findings that will be published in early 2009 in the North Carolina Law Review.

"In fact, the percent of these cases involving copying is quite small--only two to three percent," Lemley said. "These findings have implications for public policy. I believe that the laws and policies we create should address truly widespread, substantial problems ascertained from hard data, rather than those we collectively imagine are happening based on a few anecdotes."

"Stanford Law School is a leading center for empirical legal analysis, interdisciplinary research, and innovation in legal practice," said Dean Larry Kramer. "We first developed the Securities Class Action Clearinghouse, a pioneering system which, by making class actions more transparent to everyone, helped to reshape and streamline securities law and policy. Now, the IP Litigation Clearinghouse offers the next generation of tools to help scholars, law- and policymakers better understand our IP system and reform IP law and policy."

"We are developing a core element of the US intellectual property infrastructure," said Joshua Walker, founder of CodeX, the Stanford Center for Computers and Law, who directed the IPLC's creation. "The bedrock of the system is based on tens of thousands of hours of vigorous legal review and discussion with leading experts... And out of necessity (and the weight of nearly 80,000 highly complex, IP related lawsuits), we have had to develop some radically new approaches to IP analytics. Our academic mission is to empower individuals--attorneys, judges, and many others--to make the best decisions possible, as efficiently as possible. We are just getting started."

The IPLC was developed with support from several law firms and research firms, as well as technology companies Cisco Systems, Genentech, Intel, Qualcomm, and SAP America.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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