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As a practitioner, you may have noticed that you can't throw a pleading into a crowded room nowadays without hitting someone trying to sell you on some new legal services innovation. In fact, a new report by Thomson Reuters indicates that the number of patents filed for new legal technology has increased by nearly 500 percent. (Disclosure: Thomson Reuters is FindLaw's parent company.)
The numbers are staggering enough to make you want to throw a pleading in a crowded room. In 2012, less than 100 legal services related patents were filed; in 2016, that number jumped to 579. The majority of these patents, approximately 38 percent, were filed in the United States, with China having filed nearly as many, at approximately 34 percent.
What's a Legal Services Patent?
Basically, a legal services patent is like any other patent, but simply relates to performing legal services. Like the legal services chatbots or AI patent programs we've blogged about before, these patents can either be for direct to consumer legal services, or services designed to help lawyers and legal professionals.
What's Behind the Jump?
As the internet of things, smart phones, battery, and general computer technology continues to improve, it's easy to see why these patents are being registered: there's money to be made for everyone except those being replaced by technology. If you've tried out any of these fancy new developing legal technologies, you know it can often be difficult to assess whether the cost is worth the service. You also know that specially tailored legal software or services are not cheap.
As the number of firms willing to use third party services or software for client and case management, marketing, communications, networking, and more, continues to increase, the marketplace will continue to innovate, which means more new services, and more new legal tech patents. Currently, many firms already use specifically tailored software as well as third party services for a wide range of legal services including document review, due diligence reviews, legal research, litigation support, as well as administrative duties.