BT loses hypertext claim

No infringement, says judge

BT has lost its legal challenge to charge US ISPs a fee for using hyperlinks.

US judge Colleen McMahon ruled late yesterday that ISPs did not infringe a patent filed by BT more than 25 years ago.

The ruling was welcomed yesterday by those in the industry, although it was not unexpected.

In March Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that the patent for the "hidden page" - filed in 1976 and granted in 1989 - might not actually cover what we know today as "hyperlinks".

Yesterday's decision confirms that initial ruling.

Two years ago BT discovered an old patent which it claimed proved it owned the patent to hyperlinks, the devices that help link the Web together.

Six months later the UK telco filed a lawsuit against Prodigy Communications Corp in New York State in a bid to exploit its patent and claim royalties.

The legal challenge asserted BT's patented claim to hypertext links or the "hidden page" as it was described in the original patent.

Had BT been successful it could have opened the doors to a massive claim from US ISPs for revenues.

According to reports Prodigy is delighted with the decision. It has maintained throughout that BT's challenge was "shameless" and "groundless".

BT has yet to make a formal response to the ruling. However, a spokesman for BT told The Register that they were "disappointed by the judgement".

"It's [the judgement] highly detailed. We will be considering our options," he said. ®

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