Friday, June 03, 2005

A game named "Sue"

Those who have followed the activities of ACS and its Chemical Abstracts Service division over the years will recall that on 7th June 1990 the online service Dialog made a 36-page complaint about ACS to the Washington DC Federal Court, alleging unfair competition, and seeking $250 million damages.

The action related to CAS' Chemical Registry Structure Database, and followed the withdrawal by CAS of the full Registry Structure File from Dialog on 1st January 1990, thereby denying Dialog the ability to offer graphical substructure searching on its service (a feature available on a competing online service jointly operated by CAS).

Dialog argued that CRSD "has no substitutes and thus constitutes a separate and distinct market" which CAS was monopolising in contravention of anti-trust laws.

Amongst the 10 claims made by Dialog were five alleging monopoly practices, one alleging unfair competition, and one relating to a subsidy of $15 million plus that had been provided by the National Science Foundation at the time the CAS database was being created, and which Dialog claimed obliged ACS to license all data at a fair price. This obligation had been
breached by CAS, alleged Dialog, both by its withdrawal of connection table data essential for graphical structure searching, and because CAS had for some years refused to licence its abstracts of the chemical literature.

The Dialog lawsuit also claimed that its revenues from the CAS database had fallen 45% between 1984 and 1988, partly due to steep rises in CAS licence fees and royalties, and partly because of data being withheld.

ACS responded to the lawsuit by countersuing on issues of accounting. As I recall the case was eventually settled out court.

Richard Poynder
www.richardpoynder.com

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