A new software product unveiled yesterday is aimed at making it easier for companies to secure electronic files potentially needed in litigation.

Recommind, a maker of enterprise search products launched a version of its MindServer search and categorisation platform in response to recent court decisions that have made it clear a company must be able to preserve and produce email, documents and other files in compliance or litigation activities.

Morgan Stanley agreed to a $15 million (£7.8m) fine in May after US Federal regulators charged that it repeatedly failed to provide tens of thousands of emails related to various investigations. And in December, new federal rules took effect strengthening requirements that corporations save electronic records and produce them in court cases. And the European Union is on course to introduce similar regulation governing the discovery of electronic information relevant to court cases.

"The area of locking down documents for legal reasons is extremely important," says Mark Gilbert, a vice of president at Gartner who was not familiar with MindServer. "The court system has come to appreciate how much all businesses operate in the electronic world."

MindServer 5.0, which is "OEM ready" to simplify integration with other platforms, includes the litigation ‘hold’ function to preserve documents by making them read-only and putting them in a separate database.

Lawyers of an enterprise that decides it may be subject to litigation can define the parameters of what information it might be required to produce in a court case. Based on those search parameters, MindServer looks for electronic files and clusters the information around various concepts, such as insider trading or misleading offers of credit. The platform uses search results to lock down databases or applications, or the results are passed onto a separate system to be locked down.

Like other enterprise search tools, MindServer looks for documents tied to specific concepts. For example, a company might want to find information about a ‘poison pill’, a term describing a company's efforts to prevent it from being taken over by another company. A simple keyword search wouldn't find the necessary documents because it relies on word frequency and other factors that may be inappropriate, Recommind representatives said.

Concept search is "certainly a trend," said Susan Feldman, vice president for content technologies at IDC. "That's one of the major differentiators between the more advanced enterprise search software and consumer web search" like Google.

MindServer pricing starts at $75,000 (£38, 545) per server processor, but companies already using the product will be able to use the new functions such as litigation hold for no extra cost.

[Additional reporting by Miya Knights, CIO UK]