Yesterday (6 May) Thomson Reuters and West Publishing Corporation filed a suit alleging that legal research startup Ross Intelligence stole its Westlaw proprietary data to fast-track its technology development. In a strongly-worded blog post today, Ross’s co-founders say: “These allegations are false. We did nothing wrong. Below, we release internal communications, agreements, and work product related to Westlaw’s claims.”
The Thomson Reuters claim alleges that while Ross was precluded from accessing the Westlaw content as a competitor, it “illicitly and surreptitiously” used a Westlaw licensee to gain access, and used a bot to extract the content en masse.
“Ross intentionally and knowingly induced a third-party called LegalEase Solutions, LLC (“LegalEase”)—a legal support services company—to breach its contract with West by engaging in the unlawful reproduction of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted content and distribution of that content en masse to ROSS,” the claim states.
“ROSS committed direct copyright infringement by reproducing and creating a derivative work based on Plaintiffs’ content,” it adds.
In addition to copyright breach, the claim also alleges that Ross tortiously interfered with West’s contract with LegalEase. LegalEase says the claim is “misleading and inaccurate.”
In their blog post today, Ross co-founders Andrew Arruda and Jimoh Ovbiagele say: “As a part of its suit against LegalEase, Westlaw subpoenaed us for all communications, agreements, and work product related to the claim. Westlaw and their attorneys were unable to find any evidence that we used or benefited from Westlaw’s data. Below you can read a complete copy of the statement of work related to this matter. No matter; we had to spend over a hundred thousand dollars to comply with this subpoena. As a young company, this was a financial blow, which we are sure was not lost on Westlaw’s executive team.”
They add: “Fast forward to earlier this week: we received notification that Westlaw had settled with LegalEase. We thought this costly distraction was behind us, but today we are back to square one. We opened Law.com to learn that Westlaw had filed a suit against us. That Westlaw notified the press before us is disappointing.”
And they conclude: “So, here we are. A small company versus a juggernaut. David versus Goliath. This litigation epitomizes everything that is wrong with Westlaw’s business practices. Having done nothing wrong, unless case law is copyrightable… Of course, it is well established that primary law is not copyrightable in the United States. As has long been held and as the Supreme Court reminded us last week, “no one can own the law” (Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., №18–1150, 590 U.S. ___ (2020)). Individuals must have free access to the law if American democracy is to survive. We will continue to fight for free access to the law and look forward to showing the world Westlaw’s true colors. If you want to get involved in this fight, email us directly at email@example.com.
A spokesperson for Thomson Reuters said they had nothing to add to the complaint filed yesterday.
You can read the blog including the statement of work and emails in full here: https://medium.com/@AndrewArruda/hold-59effcd819b0