The normally tepid e-discovery world felt a little extra heat of competition yesterday. Recommind, one of the larger e-discovery vendors, announced Wednesday that it was issued a patent on predictive coding (which Gabe Acevedo, writing in these pages, named the Big Legal Technology Buzzword of 2011).

In a nutshell, predictive coding is a relatively new technology that allows large chunks of document review to be automated, a.k.a. done mostly by computers, with less need for human management.

Some of Recommind’s competitors were not happy about the news. See how they responded (grumpily), and check out what Recommind’s General Counsel had to say about what this means for everyone who uses e-discovery products….

Predictive coding has received a lot of coverage recently as a new way to save buckets of money during document review (a seriously expensive endeavor, for anyone who just returned to Earth).

At least one source has said it could save 45 to 70 percent of normal review costs. The New York Times published a moderately melodramatic story about new e-discovery technologies (though it doesn’t explicitly reference predictive coding) and how they are stealing real attorney jobs and replacing them with Watson.

So companies like Catalyst Repository Systems were not happy that Recommind has taken a major foothold in this new realm. From Law Technology News:

“I’m not going to get on the phone and challenge a patent, but I wish them well. The fact that people get patents isn’t the end of the story,” [Catalyst CEO John] Tredinnick said. “The question becomes whether they should have got the patent and whether that patent stands up. We’re puzzled that you can get a patent on what seems to be 40 years in the making in the academic community.”

Valora Technologies also chimed in:

“The patent is very broad, however, and is likely to be challenged on the basis of both novelty and non-obviousness,” Valora CTO Aaron Goodisman asserted.

As the LTN article mentions, Recommind has been one of the most outspoken predictive coding advocates. For a basic primer on predictive coding, the company has a short, surprisingly readable blog post that gives the skinny on the subject, plus a few common misconceptions.

Yesterday, I spoke to Craig Carpenter, Recommind’s General Counsel and Vice President of Marketing, about the news and his competitors’ reactions.

He wanted to make clear that the actual predictive coding technology pertains to only a third of the business process patent. It also covers workflow and processes, to ensure the whole thing runs consistently, reliably and defensibly every time. The technical term for Recommind’s patented technology is a particular type of “iterative, computer-expedited document review.”

Recommind doesn’t have a trademark to the words “predictive coding,” he said.

Carpenter also noted that the patent cleared in late April. The news was only announced yesterday, however, as the first of several related and ongoing patent applications. LTN speculates this is all an indication of an upcoming IPO.

As for the “push back” from competitors, Carpenter said he doesn’t think anyone will challenge the patents in court.

“We’ve been the pioneer in this for several years,” he said. “We developed this with the backing of several Am Law 30 firms.”

Carpenter told me he hopes the patent will clarify the way e-discovery vendors package their services. He hopes it will make it easier for customers to know what they’re getting.

Carpenter says some competitors provide “completely different” technology, such as clustering or email threading, and have thus far called it predictive coding. They will no longer be able to package it as such.

The obvious benefit to Recommind is that anyone who wants to employ predictive coding in e-discovery will basically have to put Recommind, or one of its licensees, on their prospective-vendor shortlist.

If you’ve used predictive coding through Recommind or other vendors, let us know in the comments. It’s often hard, at least on paper, to tell different e-discovery providers apart. Does this new-fangled stuff really make a difference?

Recommind Intends to Flex Predictive Coding Muscles [Law Technology News]

Earlier: The Next Big ‘Buzz Words’ in Legal Technology

Disclosure: As we recently announced, Recommind is a sponsor of ATL’s Legal Technology Leadership Summit, taking place later this year.


Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He previously covered legal technology for InsideCounsel magazine. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or email him at cdanzig@gmail.com. You can read more of his work at chrisdanzig.com.


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