British Telecom recently sued Prodigy for infringing a patent that supposedly covers hyperlinking.
By Erik J. Heels
First published 3/2/2002; LawLawLaw Newsletter; Clock Tower Law Group
You may have heard that British Telecom (BT) recently sued Prodigy (in a NY federal court) for infringing a patent (number 4,873,662) that supposedly covers hyperlinking. BT alleged that it owns the patent on hyperlinks and that those who use them, like Prodigy and presumably every one else on the Web, must pay. According to the Associated Press, the judge presiding at the preliminary hearing said it might be difficult to prove that a patent filed in 1976 applies to modern computers. I’ve read the patent, and it’s interesting to note that nowhere does it contain the words “link,” “hyperlink,” or “computer network.” This case highlights a couple of patent drafting issues. Patents should be written so that lay people and judges can understand them. Put another way, patents should be written so that it is easy to infringe them. It does a company no good to own a patent that does not clearly describe, in plain English, how to make and use the invention, because nobody can tell if it is being infringed! The more likely your patent is to be infringed, the more potentially valuable it is.
(enter “4,873,662” to see the patent)