Silicon Valley’s secret weapon for patent law raises $2M

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At a time when technology companies are spending large sums of money battling it out over patents, a new technology promises to let you know your chances of winning a patent suit before you even start.

Lex Machina is a machine learning technology that took Stanford researchers six years to develop, and it brings Big Data to one of the most complex and convoluted areas of the law.

“Lex Machina crawls hundreds of thousands of legal documents to predict outcomes for intellectual property cases,” said Owen Byrd, a spokesperson for the company, in an interview with VentureBeat.

The company just announced that it has raised $2 million in first-round funding, led by Portola Valley’s X/Seed Capital.

The funding announcement comes just days after Kodak lost a landmark suit against Apple and RIM.

Byrd referenced the recent Kodak case to explain how clients are using the technology. The company has data from 130,000 court cases and crawls the Web to extract documents from court records. Byrd told me that if Kodak’s lawyers had used Lex Machina, the technology would have unearthed similar cases, and likely would have found that the digital imaging company would not have won its suit. Alternatively, an analysis of the data may find that companies have a better shot of winning the case in a different state, or with an alternative district judge.

Byrd told me that in future, the technology will expand to other areas of federal law, including antitrust cases, bankruptcy, and tax law. The company will also use the funding to expand its team.

Other participants in this round  include Jeff Hammerbacher, founder of Cloudera, and Naval Ravikant of AngelList.

Click here to read a round-up of Silicon Valley legal technology startups.

Top image based on photographs from Juan Nel and ostill, Shutterstock

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