Prodigy gets victory in BT hyperlink patent suit

A U.S. federal judge Thursday threw out the claim by British Telecommunications PLC (BT) that Prodigy Communications Corp. violated a patent on hyperlinking, the technology that connects data on the Web via highlighted object links.

Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a summary judgment in Prodigy’s favor saying the company did not violate a patent that BT claims for hyperlink technology. The decision came on the heels of a previous order from McMahon that limited how BT could present and defend its claims on the patent. A summary judgment is a ruling in which the judge decides there are no factual issues that remain to be tried in a case and so parts of the case, or the entire complaint, can be decided without a trial. It can be appealed.

BT, based in London, claimed that its so-called Sargent patent, U.S. patent number 4,873,662, filed in the U.S. in 1976 and granted in 1989, provided the company with the rights to hyperlinking.

“I find that as a matter of law, no jury could find that Prodigy infringes the Sargent patent, nor that Prodigy contributes to infringement of the Sargent patent, nor actively induces others to infringe that patent,” McMahon wrote in Thursday’s opinion. “I therefore grant Prodigy’s motion for summary judgment.”

Prodigy, now a subsidiary of SBC Communications Inc., in Austin, Texas, has said it was the first commercial ISP (Internet service provider) in the U.S. and that this status made it the target for BT’s suit.