BT will press on with U.S. hyperlink patent lawsuit

With a court date set for next week in New York, British Telecommunications PLC (BT) will press ahead with its patent-infringement lawsuit against Prodigy Communications Corp., even if the lawsuit brings BT bad publicity, BT Chairman Christopher Bland said Thursday.

In the lawsuit, BT alleges that it owns the patent to hyperlink technology and that the U.S.-based Internet service provider (ISP) is using the technology without authorization.

BT contends that in 2000 it discovered that it holds U.S. patent 4,873,662 for the invention of hyperlink technology used to link Web pages and on Dec. 13, 2000, the London-based telecommunication company filed suit in federal court in White Plains, New York. Late last year, a pretrial discovery court date for case number 00cv9451 was set for Feb. 11 and Feb. 12 with Judge Mark Fox presiding.

The very idea of suing is an American one, so it shouldn’t damage the company from a marketing point of view, Bland said at a news conference announcing BT’s third quarter financial results.

“If the court decides in our favour, that would be nice. If the court doesn’t decide in our favour, that would not be nice. But the idea of dropping the suit to increase the ‘feel good’ factor with ISPs (in the U.S.) would be a bizarre notion for us here in the U.K.,” Bland said.

Early in 2000, after discovering in a routine check that it owned the patent for the hyperlink, BT wrote to 17 U.S. ISPs, including Prodigy, asking them to pay for the privilege of using the technology through licensing agreements. The suit filed against Prodigy, which claims to be the largest consumer DSL (digital subscriber line) ISP in the U.S. as well as the first commercial ISP in the U.S., is the first suit BT has filed to protect its hyperlink patent.

BT, in London, can be contacted at +44-20-7356-5000 or

Prodigy, in Austin, Texas, can be contacted at +1-512-527-1500, or online at

The Hidden Page patent can be accessed athttp://’4873662′.WKU.&OS=PN/4873662&RS=PN/4873662