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BT still chasing cash for hyperlink patent

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BT is still trying to extract megabucks from US ISPs following the telco's patent claim to hypertext links - and it's prepared to taken legal action if those fingered don't cough up.

The telco also refuses to discuss the cases of others who believe they created hypertext before BT patented its version in 1976, despite film footage which many believe undermines BT's claim.

News that BT owned the rights to hypertext became public knowledge in June after UK-based licensing company, Scipher, announced it was acting on behalf of BT to realise the financial potential of the BT's patent.

In an announcement today Scipher confirms that it was still "actively carrying out this commission", scotching mischievous speculation that BT's claim was little more than a hoax.

No one from Scipher was available by press time to explain exactly what progress had been made during the last six months.

Scipher execs were, apparently, busy explaining to analysts why the company had made an operating loss of £5.8 million for the six months ended September 30.

However, a spokesman for BT, said: "We remain in discussion with a number of US ISPs. Although we've made no legal threats yet - we still don't rule out litigation."

Asked whether BT accepted that others might have a genuine claim to hypertext, he said that he was not prepared to comment about what other people thought about the validity of BT's claim.

"We maintain that we have a good case," he said.

With such stonewalling from both sides (The Reg would still like to hear from any US ISPs which have been collared by BT) it could be years before this matter is resolved. Then again, something might happen next week - we just don't know.

However, until this matter is resolved the speculation and arguments will continue.

BT claims that a patent filed in 1976 - and granted in 1989 - proves it owns the intellectual property rights to hyperlinks - those natty little devices that link Web content together.

The patent was lodged following work on text-based online information systems Viewdata and Prestel by the General Post Office (GPO) before it was split into the Post Office and BT.

The patent has expired everywhere except in the US, where it still has a few years left to run. ®

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BT could face legal action over hyperlink claim
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