BT's attempt to enforce a patent on internet hyperlinks has
been thrown into fresh doubt by video footage of a 1968 research
The telco wanted US internet service providers to pay for their
customers' rights to use hyperlinks in websites, the element of a
web page a user clicks on to access another page or site.
However, the US-based Internet Patent News Service has
discovered a website that hosts a film said to contain a
demonstration of the hyperlink technology which pre-dates BT's
claim by eight years.
The film involves a 90-minute presentation in 1968 by Douglas
Englebart, of the Stanford Research Institute, that demonstrates
the first mouse, and other innovations such as hyperlinks, which
were to be elements of an online system he was working on.
But BT said the patent dates back to the days of its Viewdata
online services, including Prestel. The company said it applied for
the patent with the US Patent Office in 1976, but didn't receive it
The telco now wants money from organisations using hyperlinks
until the patent expires in 2006. Its patents on hyperlinks in
other countries have already expired.
A BT spokesman said that it was in the process of contacting US
internet service providers to discuss licensing fees. "We're only
asking to get what is rightfully ours," he said, adding that the
process would continue through this month and November.
BT has hired intellectual property licensing firm QED, part of
UK technology licensing company Scipher, to recover the unpaid fees
arising from the many websites that use hyperlinks.