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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

OCLC legal action involving the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) System

This was released by OCLC concerning the recent issue with the Library Hotel in Manhattan, posted here with permission of OCLC.

OCLC has received several inquiries regarding a recent legal action filed by OCLC involving the Dewey Decimal Classification® (DDC®) system. OCLC would like to provide some background on that legal action.

On September 10, 2003, OCLC filed a trademark infringement complaint against The Library Hotel. The Library Hotel (New York), which opened in August 2000, makes extensive use of and reference to the Dewey Decimal Classification at the hotel and in its marketing materials.

OCLC is disappointed that legal action had to be taken against The Library Hotel. This is an unusual event for OCLC. However, trademark law imposes affirmative obligations on trademark owners to protect their trademarks, or risk losing all rights in those marks through legal abandonment. We felt that abandoning our rights in the Dewey trademarks was an unacceptable result for the OCLC membership. OCLC attempted to avoid litigation by repeatedly requesting attribution of our ownership of the Dewey marks from The Library Hotel. They have refused to do so. Unfortunately, that refusal left us with no other recourse than to file a legal complaint.

Since 1988, OCLC, a non-profit library services organization, has assumed ownership of and responsibility for the Dewey Decimal Classification system (including all associated trademark rights) on behalf of its membership, and therefore has an obligation to manage the use of the Dewey trademarks to preserve them for the benefit of the cooperative. Accordingly, between October 2000 and October 2002, OCLC made three written requests to The Library Hotel asking the Hotel to acknowledge and attribute ownership of the Dewey trademarks to OCLC. The Library Hotel refused to do so.

In appropriate situations, OCLC has established licensing arrangements that permit the use of the Dewey Decimal Classification trademarks while protecting OCLC's trademark rights. OCLC accommodates licensing requests whenever possible.

The Dewey Decimal Classification exists to help libraries and other organizations and companies organize their information materials so that users may find information easily. The DDC is the world's most widely used library materials classification system. Over 200,000 libraries in 135 countries use the DDC to organize their collections. The DDC has been translated into over 30 languages. OCLC sells thousands of print and electronic editions of the DDC each year. These funds are used to continue the development of the DDC.

The DDC is a general knowledge organization tool that is continuously updated and revised to keep pace with knowledge. For example, recent additions to DDC include: "extreme sports," DDC classification number 796.046; "Web publications," classification number 070.57973; "laser surgery," classification number 617.058 and "digital television," classification number 621.38807. Over the past decade, OCLC has invested more than $6 million to continually update and maintain the effectiveness and relevance of the Dewey Decimal Classification in a modern world. It is important work. OCLC has seven full-time staff dedicated to the creation and management of the DDC. OCLC is supported in this effort by the Dewey Decimal Classification Editorial Policy Committee, a ten-member international board whose main function is to advise the DDC editors and OCLC on matters relating to changes, innovation and the general development of the DDC. Appointed by various organizations, EPC members represent the interests of libraries around the world as they help guide the ongoing development of the DDC.

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