I wrote about this on FOIB, I think, a couple of years ago with a similar tirade.
This is moronic not only because it is a completely unenforceable and indefensible patent claim, but for so many more reasons. They can’t possibly win. Why?
– BT, as a seller of data circuits and communications solutions, has knowingly assisted other companies to “infringe” upon their “patents”. – The prior art of Nelson, Engelbart, et al is fairly concrete and has been thoroughly documented.
This is a great way, right as BT attempts to enter the US market as a competitor, to piss off most of your potential partners and customers in the IP communications marketplace..
It’s just really, really stupid.
Thursday February 7 8:37 AM ET
BT in Fight to Establish Web Surfing Patent
By Bernhard Warner and Eric Auchard
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Imagine if one company held the right to collect a fee each time an Internet user clicked on a Web site link and jumped to another Web page.
It may sound far-fetched, but a U.S. federal court will hear preliminary arguments next week to determine if this most elemental of Internet activities is the business property of a lone company, protected in the form of a patent.
BT Group Plc believes it holds such a patent covering ”hypertext links” — the illuminated text on a Web page that enables users to surf from page to page with the click of a mouse. On Monday, BT will go to court to try to cash in on it.
Its first target is Prodigy, the oldest online access service, which dates back to 1984 and is now a unit of SBC Communications, the second largest U.S. local telephone company.
The former British telecoms monopoly maintains that Prodigy, with its 3.6 million customers, is in violation of a hyperlink patent granted years before the Internet as we now know it even existed.
BT is calling the trial a test case whose outcome will determine whether it can commercialize a potentially lucrative patent. If successful, BT intends to go after other American internet service providers, the lone jurisdiction governed by the patent.
“We believe we have a duty to protect our intellectual property and we would expect companies to pay a reasonable royalty based on the revenues that they have enjoyed through the use of that intellectual property,” a BT spokeswoman said.
“A ROCK STAR”
The case, which will ultimately determine whether every move on the Internet can be taxed by a single company, promises to be one of the most closely watched patent disputes in history.
“It’s probably among the top ten most controversial patents in the world,” said Charles Cella, a former patent attorney and co-founder of BountyQuest Corp., a U.S. startup that monitors patent cases.
“It’s a rock star in the patent world,” he added. “That’s a scary thought.”
A preliminary hearing will begin on Monday in the Federal Court for the Southern District of New York in White Plains, Prodigy’s original home town, 25 miles north of New York City.
For its part, neither Prodigy nor its parent, SBC, will discuss the case. “We don’t comment on pending litigation,” said an SBC spokeswoman for Prodigy Communications.
Since the controversial lawsuit became public in late 2000, BT has come under heavy fire from computer programmers, developers and Web business executives alike, a group that has traditionally attacked technology patents of any kind.
Public critics of BT say the notion of hypertext linking was devised decades before BT developed its own version in the 1970s, for which it was issued the US patent in 1989.
In a unique display of solidarity, the Internet and legal communities have used Web message boards over the past year to ferret out claims that “prior art” for hypertext links exists.
Most cite British scientist Ted Nelson, who ostensibly coined the word “hypertext” in 1963, using the term in his book ”Literary Machine” in 1965.
A more damning counter-argument, they say, may come in the form of grainy, black and white film footage located on the Stanford University Web site at http://sloan.stanford.edu/MouseSite/1968Demo.html.
The clip shows a 1968 demonstration by Stanford computer researchers demonstrating what computer experts believe is the first example of hypertext linking. If true, it could invalidate the BT patent, experts claim.
In the film, lead researcher Douglas Engelbart, the father of the computer mouse and a local hero in Silicon Valley, demonstrates how by clicking on certain words in a computer program a new page of text appears.
“It’s like gold dust from a prior art point of view,” said Ben Goodger, a senior attorney at London-based intellectual property consultancy Rouse & Company International.
“It’s unusual. There is apparently evidence that someone was doing this long ago,” added Goodger.
In a biographical sketch on his Web site, Engelbart claims to have invented the first hypertext system in the 1960s, known as NLS (for oN-Line System).
Engelbart’s computer was the second computer connected to the Defense Department-sponsored ARPANet, the predecessor to today’s Internet.
Finding bullet-proof prior art — considered the best shot at defending a patent claim — is difficult though, experts say.
Cella, for one, questioned whether the Engelbart film would hold up in court, adding that the heavily indebted BT would be unlikely to head to court and incur millions of dollars in legal fees if it thought the film could harm its case.
While the debate over the validity of the patent rages on outside of court, many in the tech community agree on one thing: heading to court to defend a claim of ownership on Web surfing is a potentially big public relations gamble for BT.
“But, on the other hand, one could admire them for having the guts to do it. If you have it why not use it?,” Goodger remarked.