Library catalog system owner sues book-based New York hotel
September 20, 2003, 9:29 PM EDT
DUBLIN, Ohio -- A global computer library service is seeking one heck of a
fine against a New York City luxury hotel.
The Library Hotel, overlooking the New York Public Library, opened in August
2000 as an homage to the Dewey Decimal system of classifying books by topic.
Each floor is dedicated to one of 10 Dewey categories. The 60 rooms are
named for specific topics, such as room 700.003 for performing arts, with
appropriate books inside.
Trouble is, the classification system isn't in the public domain.
Online Computer Library Center, a nonprofit organization based in this
Columbus suburb, acquired the rights to Dewey Decimal in 1988 when it bought
The system is continually updated, with numbers assigned to more than
100,000 new works each year as soon as they are cataloged by the Library of
Congress, according to the OCLC website.
Now the library group is suing the Library Hotel, accusing it of trademark
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus on Wednesday seeks
triple the hotel's profits since its opening or triple the organization's
damages, whichever is greater, from hotel owner Henry Kallan.
"I would term it straight-out trademark infringement," said Joseph R.
Dreitler, a trademark lawyer with the Columbus office of Jones Day, which
represents the Online center.
"A person who came to their Web site and looked at the way (the hotel) is
promoted and marketed would think they were passing themselves off as
connected with the owner of the Dewey Decimal Classification system."
Melvil Dewey created the most widely used library classification system in
1873. Each of 10 main categories, such as social sciences, mathematics or
the arts, has thousands of subcategories, designated by decimal points.
The center charges libraries at least $500 a year for its use.
The center also provides computerized services such as cataloging materials,
locating reference books and arranging interlibrary loans to more than
45,000 libraries in 84 countries.
Similar unauthorized uses of the Dewey system mostly have resulted in
out-of-court settlements, Dreitler said.
The lawsuit said the center sent three letters to Kallan from October 2000
to October 2002, asking for acknowledgment of Online's ownership of the
Dewey trademarks, but the hotel owner didn't respond.
Hotel general manager Craig Spitzer and OCLC spokeswoman Wendy McGinnis did
not return phone messages Saturday requesting comment on the lawsuit.
Dreitler said the center is willing to settle with the hotel's owners.
"At a minimum, if they want to continue to use it, there certainly has to be
some sort of a license to the Library Hotel," he said. "We're not interested
in putting the hotel out of business."
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