Thursday

Thursday 22/08/2002That didn't take long. In a lawsuit destined to be of no importance whatsoever to lawyers, BT's claim to have invented the hyperlink has been thrown out of court with some gusto.

Thursday 22/08/2002
That didn't take long. In a lawsuit destined to be of no importance whatsoever to lawyers, BT's claim to have invented the hyperlink has been thrown out of court with some gusto. BT said that Prodigy, and by implication everyone else, was infringing a patent that described how data retrieved from the Net could contain an address to more data. The court said that the patent could in no way apply to the Internet, and that should be that. It won't merit even a footnote in the legal textbooks. But the court case has ramifications outside intellectual property law and the huge bill that BT will have to pay (and doesn't that phrase have a delicious irony?). Sir Christopher Bland had previously declined to admit that the case might be a bad idea. Why should BT be nice, he said. "The idea that we should abandon this suit in order to provide ISPs with a feel-good factor is, frankly, bizarre. Everyone sues all the time in the States, anyway." No, 'everyone doesn't sue all the time' in the US. And the idea that a company might want to express some form of responsibility to the wider community of its peers isn't something to be dismissed with such arrogant bluster. Those words of Sir Christopher will be remembered long after the case has been otherwise forgotten, a case which as the judge made clear had very little merit and should not have happened anyway. So why did it? Regardless of its technical prowess, BT's history from the moment of privatisation to date has been marked by bad judgement from the highest level, and this is evidence that the multiple car pileup of its corporate governance has yet to be cleared away from the motorway of progress. Its shareholders, assuming there are any left with the power of speech, should take note.

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