In what could be a Goliath v. David legal battle, legal research giant Thomson Reuters has filed a lawsuit against legal research startup ROSS Intelligence alleging that it surreptitiously stole content from Westlaw to build its own competing legal research product.
The complaint , filed today in U.S. District Court in Delaware, alleges that ROSS “intentionally and knowingly” induced the legal research and writing company LegalEase Solutions to use its Westlaw account to reproduce Westlaw data and deliver it to ROSS en masse.
ROSS did this after West denied it a license of its own on the basis that West does not give competitors access to its products, the complaint says.
“ROSS did so, not for the purposes of legal research, but to rush out a competing product without having to spend the resources, creative energy, and time to create it itself,” the complaint alleges. “The net result is that Plaintiffs are now being put in the unfair position of having to compete with a product that they unknowingly helped create.”
News of the lawsuit was first reported earlier today by Law.com. Thomson Reuters declined to comment on the lawsuit beyond its complaint. ROSS CEO Andrew Arruda could not be reached.
The complaint alleges that ROSS contracted with LegalEase in 2017 to get access to the Westlaw data. Thereafter, the complaint says, LegalEase’s usage of Westlaw increased from a monthly average of 6,000 transactions to some 236,000 monthly transactions — a nearly 40-fold increase.
Upon investigating this spike in usage, Westlaw discovered that a bot was being used to systematically makes it way through the Westlaw database and download and store content in bulk.
Just Settled Lawsuit with LegalEase
Thomson Reuters’ lawsuit against ROSS comes just two days after it ended a related lawsuit against LegalEase.
On Monday, West and LegalEase entered a consent judgment and stipulated permanent injunction (D. Minn. 18-cv-01445 dckt 000119_000 filed 2020-05-05) in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota.
That case involved the same allegations at issue in this new lawsuit against ROSS.
In that stipulation, LegalEase agreed to an injunction that prevents it from reproducing Westlaw content, using bots to access content, and sharing its Westlaw credentials.