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BT claims hyperlink patent

A New York judge has dealt BT an early blow in its test case against US ISP Prodigy Communications.

A New York judge has dealt BT an early blow in its test case against US ISP Prodigy Communications.

BT is claiming that it owns the patent for the ‘hyperlink’, the Internet function that allows users to click to related links via pictures and text, which the company claims it invented in 1976.

However, in a preliminary hearing in New York on Monday, Judge Colleen McMahon commented that it would be very difficult to prove the patent since it originated before the Internet was invented. McMahon also remarked that to compare a computer made in the 1970’s with a current day model was like “comparing a Mastadon [woolly mammoth] with a Jet”.

The claim originates from developmental work carried out by BT in the 1970’s on a primitive online information system called Prestel, during which the company claims the hyperlink concept was created. If the case is successful against Prodigy in the US, the only country in which the patent has not expired, it could open up a string of similar cases. Analysts believe payments in royalties and fines would net BT tens of millions of dollars.

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