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Lex Machina - a review of PTAB Trials

What is Lex Machina? Lex Machina generates a fair amount of press around the idea of legal analytics. Essentially, legal analytics involves discovering meaningful patterns in a set of legal data. Lex Machina was founded in 2009 after emerging from a research project that was part of Stanford's Computer Science Department and Law School. The focus is on curating data about intellectual property disputes. A very distinct mission.

How does Lex Machina stack up against Docket Navigator (first review) and Docket Alarm (second review)? The entire focus of Lex Machina is cultivating data to make better decisions involving IP rights. Lex Machina informally presents itself as "Moneyball for IP" and generally markets itself as

Legal Analytics
The winning edge for your IP strategy.

How does Lex Machina compare with others, now that it has expanded its data set to include PTAB Trials? We're going to evaluate Lex Machina using the same criteria we applied for Docket Navigator and Docket Alarm. Let's dive in to see how Lex Machina approaches the filings for PTAB Trials at the Patent & Trademark Office.  

The five criteria:

  1. Search
  2. Coverage
  3. Speed
  4. Downstream Impact
  5. Alerts/Analytics

This criteria evolved from a presentation by Diana Koppang of Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP in February 2014. The presentation can be found here. The presentation has different evaluation touch points. Items include database date ranges, update delay, non-precedential decisions, full-text search, complete vs. select filings, and BPAI decisions (appeals). Other items consider ability to set alerts, alert delay time, new case filings, docket tracking and frequency options.

We compressed those items into a smaller set. Let's take a look at the Lex Machina service as of a March 2015 demonstration under those criteria. We didn't have access to the Lex Machina site for evaluation,* so we've gathered information from other sources about the service, and also rely on this video (BrightTalk registration required).

*Updated on June 11, 2015 following an in-person live demonstration the previous day.

1. Search

Criteria Description: full-text search; categorized search fields; filters; exhibit content search

Lex Machina relies on full-text search and a side bar of choices to filter results. Full-text search can be based on phrases. We presume that there is also some form of boolean-based operators as well. The information looks to be updated at least daily. The database includes PTAB metadata identifying the parties, document filing types, and other information ingested from a pull of the PTAB repository. 

Full-text searching is enhanced by filters. After running a search, the list of results can be varied by selecting boxes within filter categories. This is the main intent of searching within Lex Machina. The filters help you drill down into specific items for your search. Because the overall design borrows heavily from Lex Machina's patent litigation analytics product, the UI is directed to analytics features more than a typical search-focused engine.

In the demonstration video and in-person demonstration, Lex Machina explains that it provides full-text search of all PTAB documents, including exhibits, because all documents are processed using OCR. For in-document search, Lex Machina presents a text-rendering of the document for to explore document contents. In other words, you can see the document as it exists, but you search the OCR rendering of the document in a pure text environment. This is a tradeoff, but the goal of the service is analytics and macro level research, delivering you to specific items for consultation.

2. Coverage

Criteria Description: all filings; all orders; selected filings; summaries of filings

Of course Lex Machina fits right in with both Docket Navigator and Docket Alarm by providing complete access to every filing at the Patent Trial & Appeal Board. And as we addressed before, the PTAB proceedings are organized around a patent number. Lex Machina cross-references PTAB proceedings with litigations by patent number, as well as other criteria like name of party. A user can jump between litigations and PTAB proceedings using a tab. Simply put, Lex Machina has everything available from the PTO's Patent Review Processing System (PRPS).

3. Speed

Criteria Description: document download speed; retrieval of search results; retrieval and display of document; on-screen document scrolling

For speed, Lex Machina is pretty typical. The search results appear quickly. There is a very slight delay that's not too imposing, with progress indicated by a revolving status circle on the screen. Clicking on a document indicated by a link in the results screen, retrieves and displays the document quickly. Essentially the document is presented by way of a PDF viewer.

Moving between different filtered selections involves a small bit of retrieval and rendering time, but again, nothing that in anyway impedes research. There are multiple ways to display different sets of results, including a Case List screen. A nice touch.

Another item not included in the video, but shown at the in-person demonstration is a "don't include" filter option for each filter category. This is an explicit suggestion to ignore items that would be included in the resulting filtered set, but are not to be included. This feature has a number of uses.

4. Downstream Impact

Criteria Description: sharing options; annotations; repositories; linkage to other pertinent information

Lex Machina provides "downstream" reports to users for use in a number of different ways. There is a share feature (send a PDF via email), a save feature (add the item to your favorites) and a download feature (download a PDF or Excel file).

I also spoke with Lex Machina and asked whether there were any restrictions or rights of attribution required when using its reports. I applaud them for not having any restrictions. They even explained that you don't have to give them any right of attribution if you use them in a presentation at a conference. Top notch. That's not to say it doesn't hurt to identify the source of the fine looking graphics, but they don't require it. 

As expected, a user can download any selected document, along with any generated report. And of course the file is delivered to your computer in quick fashion.

It wasn't clear how well Lex Machina supports bulk downloading from my conversations with them. Consistent with other PTAB services we've evaluated, Lex Machina is confined to search and retrieval of documents from a PTAB proceeding, a limited share capability, and it also provides analytics -- the pulse of the platform. Any proceeding document or report retrieved by a user is basically downloaded or could be shared, and then the user is on her own.  We didn't discover any annotation or comment features to pinpoint specific items of importance in a PTAB decision. This makes sense because the user can either see the document via the PDF reader or search the document using a separate text rendering.

As with other PTAB services we've reviewed, there's no functionality that allows a user indicate what you found may be helpful or why it's helpful. Once a user completes the research activity, other tools or systems are needed to continue with a project.

5. Alerts/Analytics

Criteria Description: alert settings; email alert summaries; high level infographics; statistical summaries by time period or issue

Here Lex Machina provides you just about everything you would need for analytics. And they should because that has been the whole goal of their service from the beginning - presenting IP statistics and analytics. At the in-person demonstration we confirmed that Lex Machina does support alerts -- including user configured daily, filtered alerts delivered via email. . If you're using Lex Machina, you're primary focus is likely not alerts, but rather analytics, and they do this very well. The only item I can find fault, and it really is minor, concerns the "time to event" graphical slider. For me, it's just busy and confusing. There's almost too much information being shown.

The bread and butter is really the statistical summaries. using graphs and percentages can be shown under just about any parameter you would think to consider. You can jump between different summaries simply by varying different filter criteria.

Lex Machina blends machine data grooming with human oversight to create a very deep analytics package. There's not much really to comment on because they present and groom the data so well.

Overall Assessment

Overall (from 1-10): a very solid score of 7.5 for the Lex Machina PTAB Trials research tool.

Lex Machina just recently launched PTAB Trials as service in February 2015. It's a good addition to its core offering. I wasn't able to actually use the service and instead rely on information gleaned from conversations with Lex Machina and reviews of its video demonstration. The service is available at a year subscription rate. My current law firm is not a subscriber.


For Search (score = 7.5): Lex Machina offers full-text search. There doesn't seem to be a heavy emphasis on boolean search, but we presume it's a standard feature. The main aspect of the service is built around checkbox filters to refine search results. We weren't able to verify whether the service supports in-document search. The document viewer appeared competent. Again, the focus of the service, as explained to me, is around analytics more than research. Search, from an analytics perspective, performs well.

For Coverage (score = 10): Lex Machina has the complete set of PTAB Trial documents - IPRs, CBMs, a case listing for each proceeding, plus different ways to access related litigations.

For Speed (score = 7): Lex Machina is smooth and not choppy in retrieving and displaying information. Search is not instantaneous, but there doesn't seem to be any impactful lag when changing the filter options. Document display time is fairly crisp as well. Because the user has to maneuver through the system from the analytics perspective, the overall perception to just access a document impacts the impression of speed to actually find then access a document.

For Downstream Impact (score = 5): The analytics reports are very nice. Professional and impactful. But this is also a quasi-research service. Once you step beyond the use case of considering PTAB information through an analytics lens, what other things can you accomplish? Although you can save and distribute documents and reports, you can't do much more than that. And while you can search and retrieve PTAB documents much easier than using the PTAB interface offered via PRPS, that's not necessarily groundbreaking. There's also no real annotation or collaboration features. If you want to store and share documents within a group, you can use other services like Dropbox or Box. And use yet another service for annotating and collaborating.

For Alerts/Analytics (score = 8): Lex Machina really shines for Analytics. The data is assimilated by machine and appears to be further curated by people to resolve ambiguities. Presentation of the data is top notch. The graphical and textual display is well-balanced, and most of the information is made to be interactive. The information is well-presented and can add a polished touch of professionalism to your presentations. First rate analytics tool. Users can also configure alerts by a number of different criteria and get them delivered daily, if the criteria matches an update to the data.

[Editor's Note: This is the third of a multi-part series covering services that deliver PTAB decisions and filings; here is the first part of our review series covering Docket Navigator; and the second part of our review series covering Docket Alarm.]