OCLC and Clarivate settle lawsuit

On 7 November 2022, OCLC and Clarivate issued separate press releases announcing the settlement of OCLC's lawsuit against Clarivate, originally filed in June 2022.

OCLC’s take was that it “successfully defended WorldCat to protect the collaborative service developed and maintained with and for libraries worldwide”. OCLC reiterated that WorldCat has been a collaborative effort of member libraries, publishers, data experts, and OCLC for decades. The settlement document is confidential, but OCLC noted two significant elements:

  • Clarivate, Ex Libris, and ProQuest have ceased the development and marketing of the MetaDoor MARC record exchange system developed using records that are subject to the WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities Policy.
  • Clarivate, Ex Libris, and ProQuest will promptly and permanently delete all MetaDoor work product that incorporated or was based on records subject to the Policy.

Clarivate’s press release wasn’t conciliatory in the least. The company “continues to deny OCLC’s allegations of wrong-doing and maintains that the issue lay between OCLC and its customers, who sought to co-create an efficient community platform for sharing of bibliographic records.” It did admit, however, that it had given up its idea of developing a product—although it did not use the name “MetaDoor” in the release—that would have included records from OCLC products subject to the Policy. Perhaps MetaDoor will resurface in the future, since it’s clear that Clarivate sees this as OCLC winning a skirmish but not a war.

Consider this statement from Gordon Samson, Chief Product Officer at Clarivate: “Clarivate will continue to support the goals of open research and data exchange—because we believe it is the best way to make the process of research and learning faster, more robust and more transparent.?Regardless of business model, when scholarly information is easily accessible and shareable, the dots are easier to join, the connections are explicit, and collaborations are more natural and meaningful. The process of scientific discovery is faster, and it is easier to ensure research integrity and reproducibility.??We know that navigating the transition to open research is important to our customers, and we remain committed to helping them make that transition as seamlessly as possible.”

An interesting analysis from Peter Murray, a library technologist and open source advocate now working for IndexData, is on his Disruptive Library Technology Jester blog. He delved into court documents to quote what the attorneys for both sides told the court about what a MetaDoor and an OCLC WorldCat record actually are. This is a fairly arcane area, making it understandably problematic for the judge to totally understand concepts like library metadata, copy cataloging and record reuse.

The settlement avoids protracted litigation, which was scheduled to go on for months, up until at least September 2023.