Litigator Tool Tip: Reverse Image Search & The Case Of The Billion Dollar Image

Although the legal industry has cultivated a reputation for being relatively unaware when it comes to the latest developments in tech, lawyers at the American firm Baker Botts have proven that the clear advantage of being a tech-aware lawyer might make this formerly rare breed of barrister the new normal.

The Billion Dollar Image

The Baker Botts story is as simple as it is captivating. In essense, the Texas-based conglomerate, Montcrief Oil International, decided to sue Russian competitor, Gazprom, alleging that the Russian company had stolen trade secrets from the Texan giant following an earlier negotiation between the two. The damages claimed by Montcrief for this white-collar finagling were an ample $1.37 billion.

Although it’s old hat for multi-nationals to sue one another for billions of dollars over allegations of corporate skullduggery, the otherwise straightforward case took a bizarre turn after the Plaintiff produced a document containing a 2004 analysis that greatly undermined Gazprom’s defense. While preparing for cross-examination, Baker Botts partner Van Beckwith and associate John Lawrence decided to enlarge this trial exhibit to get a better understanding of the data it contained. In the process, the two noticed an odd inconsistency in the numbering on one of the document’s pages. Aware of the latest offering from Google, the two litigators decided to perform a Reverse Image Search on the perplexing document. What they found was shocking. The trial exhibit, alleged to have been created in 2004, contained an image that was actually created in 2012. The document – previously the cornerstone of Moncrief’s trade secrets claim – was apparently a fabrication. The $1.37 billion lawsuit was dropped, and Moncrief agreed not to refile in any jurisdiction on the condition that the Russian Competitor not pursue any sanctions.

No doubt Baker Botts was in a state of backslapping jubilation after this victory. However, it’s important to note that their success would not have been possible without the use of Google Reverse Image Search. This raises a very important question, what exactly is Reverse Image Search?

What is Reverse Image Search?

In a nutshell, Reverse Image Search allows you to use a picture as the basis of your search query instead of text. For instance, if you happen to have a digital photo of Jeff Goldblum that you particularly like and you want to find other similar photos of Jeff Goldblum or find out who took that particular photo of Jeff Goldblum, you could drag and drop your image into search. Once you enter your selected image into search, Google will find a series of related images from around the web and other text and visual content that relates to that image. Although searching by image is unlikely to produce many results for a fairly esoteric picture, the Baker Botts example proves the efficacy of using the tool to search relatively obscure pictures to discover the history of their use and creation.

How does Reverse Image Search Work?

Without getting overly technical, to carry out a Reverse Image Search Google essentially analyzes the submitted picture by constructing a unique mathematical model of it through the use of algorithms. Once modeled, the image’s data is compared with billions of other images existing in Google’s databases. Based on these comparisons, Google is able to eventually create and render the search results page that reaches the end user.

Notably, and fortunately for Baker Botts, reverse image search also works for modified versions of an original image. To be clear, if you place a modified image into Reverse Image Search you will likely find the original source for the image. This can come in handy in instances where you are attempting to verify the alleged pedigree of a document that you suspect has been doctored.

Why Should Litigators Know How to Use Reverse Image Search?

Based on the Baker Botts example, there is strong anecdotal evidence that familiarity with Reverse Image Search can supply an outsized reward. Although the $1.37 billion difference it made in the Montcrief Oil case is an exceptional example of the tool’s power, it will not represent the last time an enterprising lawyer uses it to debunk a fabricated document. Further, the Google-engineered tool is incredibly straightforward to use. On the off chance that you dislike Google, competitors like TinEye offer similar products.

We would like to see more lawyers follow Beckwith and Lawrence’s example. Although the legal profession is centuries old, it does not exist in a vacuum. Refusing to utilize the latest offerings by tech giants can end up putting you at a billion dollar disadvantage.

Learn More And Give It A Try

Seeing is believing.  Learn more about reverse image search from Google itself, right here. 

Hat tip to the for their original article on the case



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