Monday, June 2, 2008's Lexico sued by Roget's Thesaurus

If you use as extensively as I do, you'll notice that on or about May 1st the website became drastically useless. Here's what happened.

Around April 8th, 2008, made a snuff about synonyms for the word "weaker" at, which came up as "female" and "lady". While disgusting, synonyms like these don't particularly surprise me since they are slang for the concept of female as the "weaker sex". (Yes, while males get stuck with synonyms like "soul" and "humanity", feminine synonyms run a gamut of derogatory slanders. Welcome to being a lady. But that is another post.) Many of these synonyms can be found in Roget's Thesaurus (indicated as slang, just like I said). I know because it is on the bookshelf above my writing desk (sometimes I like to drift among the words, like a thirsty man in the desert, so sue me. Oops, did I give away the post?). The people these synonyms surprised the most, were the people at Roget's Thesaurus.

The attention and outrage garnered at lead to someone at Roget's realizing that was lifting their words and infringing on the copyright of their 21st Century Thesaurus. They are now suing Lexico, the owners of in "The Philip Lief Group, Inc vs. Lexico Publishing Group" dated May 7th, 2008.

Apparently in 1990 and 1998, Roget employed a Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD to create the 21st Century Thesaurus and the Revised edition. Roget retained the copyright and its agreement with Kipfer prohibited her from participating in the preparation of another English language thesaurus without Roget's permission. In 1999, requested a license for Roget's Thesaurus for its (then) fledgling internet based reference business. Citing that the business was not profitable and would be used mainly to educate people, they offered Roget's $3,000 smackers. Roget's declined.

Meanwhile, entered into an agreement with Dr. Kipfer to buy a thesaurus for their online site called "Roget's New Millennium Thesaurus". Roget's is charging that Kipfer's "New Millennium Thesaurus" is actually their "21st Century Thesaurus" copied verbatim, complete with misspellings and nonsense words.


From 2002 to 2008 has increased in business value by creating a significant web based advertising supported business replete with pay for use premium features. In July of 2007 Lexico (declined) an offer of 100 million dollars for its sale.

Around May 19th, apparently removed all the words from their database that could only be found in Roget's new Millennium Thesaurus. The result is fewer returns, non-existing antonyms and some that words no longer have thesaurus entries. Since each word is cross-referenced through hyperlinks, this has drastically reduced the overall effectiveness of their on-line tool. Cries across the web have ranged from complaints about the "massive reduction" of hits and the "newly degraded" format to less detailed epithets ("suddenly sucks" and "now worthless").

Other discussions on the subject have disintegrated to a lot of finger pointing.'s parent company, Lexico, has remained mum on the subject (foolhardy in my humble opinion) but court records serve as the herald of the awful truth.

1 comment:

  1. It seems suddenly sucks less and once again includes citations from Roget's.
    In perhaps related news... Reuters reports has closed a cash deal to acquire Lexico, the owner of
    Thought you'd be interested.