Until 2008, Dialog was formerly part of Thomson Scientific, itself a unit of financial information giant Thomson Reuters. Westlaw, a part of West Publishing, itself another unit of Thomson Reuters, had therefore been able to provide Dialog’s powerful database of sources (which include 900 databases of intellectual property), to its large group of professional subscribers.
In 2008, Thomson Reuters sold Dialog to ProQuest Information and Learning, a provider of information to researchers and libraries. As far as I can tell, there is very little press on the impact of the Dialog sale to Westlaw and its subscribers.
However, I’ve begun to notice an interesting development occurring for Deep Web Technologies, in that we have received an inordinate number of inquires and expressions of interest from the legal world over the past few months. Larger law firms and practices (especially those involving intellectual property and legal research), are beginning to take notice of federated search technology, and many in the legal world are beginning to see how federated search can provide a strategic advantage over mere access to Westlaw or similar organizations.
It makes me wonder whether there is a connection to the timing of this increased interest, with the loss of Dialog for Westlaw’s users.
Given that I am an intellectual property attorney, I can pick on intellectual property attorneys. We’re a diverse group — more diverse than appears at first blush. First, there are four main branches of intellectual property: Copyrights, Trademarks, Patents and Trade Secrets. There are specialty areas within each of them, such as trade dress under Trademarks and international under all branches. Let’s look at Patents for a minute. Two patent attorneys care about very different information if one patent attorney specializes in biomedical devices, and the other specializes in electronics. That’s an easy one to understand.
There can be strong differences, however, for patent attorneys in the same field. Consider two patent attorneys specializing in electronics, if one specializes in computer hardware and the other specializes in semiconductors. Interestingly, even two patent attorneys in same field of semiconductors could differ in their research needs if one specializes in patent drafting and the other specializes in litigation.
I could go on.
The point is, each and every attorney has very unique and differing research needs. No one information source has everything that every attorney needs. Not only that, many attorneys in large corporations, law firms or government offices have internal databases that also become a necessary part of their research.
Only federated search technology has the breadth to serve the particular needs of every attorney, because federated search conducts searches against all sources an attorney feels is important to their careers: Internal sources, subscriber-based sources (i.e. Westlaw) and favorite — subject matter specific — sources (i.e. IEEE, Wall Street Journal, etc).
In today’s world, where attorneys are pressured to keep fees low, yet expected to be on top of their game (both legally and in their respective subject matter), simple, affordable and comprehensive access to information is critical to success.
If you’re a Westlaw subscriber, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the loss of the Dialog database.