OCLC Dewey Decimal Classification Lawsuit Pleadings

Library Journal reports:

OCLC Sues New York Library-Themed Hotel
-- 9/29/2003
BreakingNews > News

The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) has launched a surprising lawsuit claiming trademark infringement against a Manhattan library-themed hotel. Since its opening in August of 2000, the Library Hotel, located a block from the New York Public Library's main research library, has divided its rooms according to the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system. As part of the theme, rooms include books corresponding to their classification. The hotel maintains on its web site that it is the "first hotel ever to offer its guests over 6,000 volumes organized throughout the hotel by the DDC." For OCLC, however, there's just one problem. OCLC acquired the trademark rights to the DDC system when it purchased Forest Press in 1988, and charges license fees to library systems for its use. Joseph Dreitler, a trademark lawyer with a firm that represents OCLC, termed the Library Hotel case "straight-out trademark infringement."

The news spread nationally and had electronic discussion lists buzzing, with many librarians wondering why the suit was filed and several contacting the hotel to express their surprise and support. Craig Spitzer, general manager of the Library Hotel, said in a statement, Spitzer said "The Library Hotel respects others' intellectual-property rights and we do not believe that we have infringed the rights of OCLC Online Computer Library Center in any way. The theme of the hotel is the original idea of the owner, Henry Kallan, based upon our proximity to the New York Public Library. We are not a library lending books, but rather we have created a unique hotel experience for book lovers to enjoy."

Dreitler, however, said OCLC attempted to get the Library Hotel to simply sign some form of agreement acknowledging that the hotel's use of the Dewey Decimal System was granted by permission of OCLC. For the first two years they heard nothing, said Dreitler. Last year, however, The Library Hotel's owner, Henry Kallan finally responded. "He basically told OCLC to get lost," Dreitler said. "All OCLC needed was a piece of paper they could put in their file." Dreitler says the OCLC has no objection to the hotel's use of the Dewey Decimal system, and was never seeking payment. But in trademark law, he said, trademarks must be vigorously defended or otherwise lost: "If a company that owns the rights to a trademark allows that trademark to be used in such a way that it is no longer associated with their product, it is abandoned. This is not something OCLC wanted to do, but they had to do it to protect their trademark rights from such large-scale use." The Library Hotel has denied any wrongdoing and could not confirm whether Kallan refused to cooperate with OCLC requests. Spitzer said that Kallan was traveling in Europe but would be happy to address reporters upon his return.

See also How Dewey Classify OCLC's Lawsuit by By Roger V. Skalbeck at http://www.llrx.com/features/deweyoclc.htm


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