There are synchronistic moments when in the process of writing. While contemplating this article, an email message made its way to my desk, past Pierce Law Center's spam firewall with the following subject line: "Pepsi v. Coke-Tell Us--Get $10." Do IP researchers choose Lexis or Westlaw justified by taste? Surely you jest, some voice said to me. Repressing this message, I proceeded to compare platform content, perform literature searches, and poll students and IP professors.

Yet another synchronistic moment came as the email from those taking the poll steamed into my email. Many IP professors indicated that they made the choice based on first to use. Some users reported that they found one system easier than the other. The sense that I got was that it was hard for them to explain what they meant by easier. Then came an email from Pierce Law Professor Bill Hennessey who reported his choice based on first to use and suggested the results were the "qwerty effect." Brilliant-the "qwerty effect" is a phrase commonly used to describe the cause of a sub-optimal (usually anachronistic) solution to a problem where logically superior alternatives apparently exist. Related to qwerty is "path-dependence," used by some authors to mean simply "history matters"-a broad conception. In economic development, for example, it is said that a standard that is first-to-market can become entrenched and that inferior standards can persist simply because of the legacy they have built up.

So, decisions to use Lexis or Westlaw that I projected would be made on cost, task analysis, content, functionality, and value added features are often made by matter of taste and history. "Many users choose based on function and not content ... one system is "reliable" as the user defines the term-they know that the system will deliver data in a predictable way that appeals to them."

Let me drop the disclaimer that the comments based on the polls shared in this article are purely anecdotal. They represent academic users. There is no science to the comments. Any comprehensive conclusion requires a broad and deep survey of users across the broader spectrum of Lexis and Westlaw users. Likewise, some of my comments and criticisms are based on my professional experience and networking. My experience with Lexis and Westlaw is based on twenty-five years of use-from law student and legal research teaching assistant to lawyer to librarian and research professor. Having taught IP research courses for nearly fifteen years, I encounter the same question on a regular basis-is Lexis or Westlaw better for IP practice? My consistent response is: "Unfortunately, I must give the lawyer answer-it depends." This article will try to address some of tools and strategies I use to answer this question when pressed to expand the answer.

Publication Date


Journal Title

IDEA : The intellectual property law review.

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Additional Information

From the series: Intellectual Property Research: Tools and Strategies.