British Telecom (BT) will today argue in a New York State Court that it should receive royalties for the widespread use of hyperlinks to surf the web, technology which it claims to have patented.
The telco is suing one of America's oldest ISPs, Prodigy, for patent-infringement.
BT is claiming to hold patents for hypertext links dating back to the 1970s. It will tell the US Federal Court that Prodigy is making unauthorised use of its technology.
BT will argue that along with Tim Berners-Lee, it contributed technology to the development of hypertext standards. Hypertext links allow web users to surf from page to page by clicking on highlighted text.
Should BT's suit be successful, it has asked that the ISP be required to pay licence fees for the use of the technology. BT may then pursue other ISPs, bringing in potentially millions of dollars of revenue.
Detractors argue that hypertext pre-dates BT's patent, having first been presented by British scientist Ted Nelson in his 1963 book Literary Machine.
Others point to work done by Stanford University computer researchers. A video clip at the university's website purports to show a successful demonstration of hypertext linking dating back to 1968. This could potentially invalidate BT's claim. .sloan.stanford.edu/MouseSite/1968Demo.html.
Prodigy and its parent company SBC Communications were not available to comment on the case.
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