Han Speckens on Tue, 20 Jun 2000 22:16:51 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-nl] Fw: Internet onder de zoden


Tuesday, 20 June, 2000, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
BT claims patent on web links

Links between webpages might belong to BT
By BBC News Online internet reporter
Mark Ward

UK firm BT is claiming ownership of a key part of the internet.

The telecommunications giant says it came up with idea for hyperlinks that turn separate pages of information into an interconnected whole.

Clicking on a hyperlink whisks you from one webpage to another.

BT says a patent filed in the US in 1976 and granted in 1989 gives it ownership of hyperlink technology

Link licence

Now, it is asking US internet service providers to pay to use what it considers to be its intellectual property.

If the claim is successful, BT stands to make millions from the licence agreements.

Berners-Lee: The scientist is usually credited as the inventor of the world wide web
 Currently, there are around 1.5bn pages on the web. Each one has, on average, 52 links on it.

BT filed patents on the hyperlink idea in other countries but these claims have now expired.

However, the US patent runs out in 2006.

Ben Goodger, a technology and intellectual property expert from law firm Willoughby and Partners, said BT would be unwise to try and enforce its claim.

"The commercial damage and unpopularity which BT would bring on its head if it tried to enforce this patent would be incalculable," he said.

Mr Goodger said in the 1980s Unisys tried to enforce its claim to a technology which was widely used to compress image files.

He said Unisys was vilified for its action at the time especially when it started charging $5000 per licence.

Now over 2000 companies have paid Unisys for a licence to use the compression system known as the LZW algorithm.

Post Office pioneer

BT rediscovered the Hidden Page patent three years ago during a routine trawl of its 15,000 patents.

The growing popularity of the internet has spurred it to capitalise on the patent.

"It is only now that the world wide web has become commercially significant," said a BT spokesman.

He added that BT has spent the time preparing its licensing programme for companies that want to use hyperlinks.

"It takes a long time to prepare a licensing programme of this magnitude," said the spokesman.

Now, it has employed intellectual property experts Scipher, formerly the Thorn-EMI research lab, to pursue those using hyperlinks.

So far, BT and Scipher have sent letters to lots of US internet service providers - it is not planning to ask individual users to pay to use the web.

BT is now talking to the ISPs about licensing agreements. It declined to divulge how much a licence to use the hyperlink technology would cost.

The original patent was filed after work done on text based information systems such as Prestel by the General Post Office (GPO).

The GPO was split into BT and the Post Office in 1981.

Just as hyperlinks now let people navigate around the internet, this early work helped users retrieve information from computers they were indirectly connected to.

Despite BT's claims to the contrary, Tim Berners-Lee is usually credited with inventing the global hypertext system that became the world wide web.

Mr Berners-Lee says that in creating the WWW he drew on the work of computing pioneer Ted Nelson - who is widely regarded as the father of hypertext.