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BT to press ahead on hyperlink case

The UK telco refutes suggestions that it might drop its lawsuit, in which it is claiming ownership of the patent for that most basic feature of the Internet; the hyperlink
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

BT has insisted that it will not be put off by the bad publicity surrounding its attempts to claim that it owns the patent for the hyperlink.

Sir Christopher Bland, chairman of BT, told a press conference on Thursday that BT was pressing ahead with its controversial legal claim. Bland dismissed suggestions that BT would be wise to ditch the lawsuit, which is due to start on 11 February in New York.

BT is suing US Internet Service Provider Prodigy Communications for unspecified damages, on the basis that it was issued with a patent for the hyperlink in 1989. The case has attracted ridicule from those who find the idea that BT owns a patent on the basic method of Web navigation nonsensical.

BT first contacted 17 ISPs, including America Online and Prodigy, in June 2000, asking them to buy a hyperlink licence. It's not clear how much BT will charge if it wins its case, but any costs are likely to be passed on to business and consumers who have Web sites.

Some in the industry have described the lawsuit as a PR disaster. But speaking at BT's London headquarters, Sir Christopher Bland launched a bullish defence of his company's actions.

"The case will go ahead. The idea that we should abandon this suit in order to provide ISPs with a feel-good factor is, frankly, bizarre," Bland insisted. "Everyone sues all the time in the States, anyway" the BT chairman added.

Gregory Aharonian, editor of the Internet Patent News Service believes that BT's claim will fail, because several research papers published in the 1960s include references to hyperlinks.

For everything Internet-related, from the latest legal and policy-related news, to domain name updates, see ZDNet UK's Internet News Section.

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