Patents for Legal Services Technology Rose 484% in 2016

Patents filed under ‘Legal services and handling legal documents’

I’ve written any number of times about the rapid growth in recent years in the number of legal technology startups. A new report out today from Thomson Reuters documents a related aspect of that — the rapid rise in the global number of patents relating to legal services technology.

The number of patents filed within the category “legal services and handling legal documents” has risen 484 percent in the last five years, according to the analysis by Thomson Reuters of data from the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

In 2016, 579 patents relating to new legal services technology were filed worldwide, up from 99 patents in 2012. Patents filed in the U.S. accounted for the highest proportion of the total. The top three countries by percentage of total patents filed in 2016 were:

Country Percent of Total Patents Filed Globally 2016
1 United States 38%
2 China 34%
3 South Korea 15%

The figures reflect the rise of alternative legal services – such as virtual law firms – and the rapid expansion of the online legal industry, Thomson Reuters says.

“Technological innovation across the financial and professional services industries has grown rapidly over the last few years and the legal sector is investing to stay ahead of the curve,” said Charlotte Rushton, managing director of U.S. Large and Midsize Law Firms for Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters also attributes the rise to regulatory changes that have opened legal markets to new entrants and unconventional business models in jurisdictions such as the UK, Australia and Washington, D.C. Many of these new business models are technology-driven.