Hundreds of millions of British pounds will depend on the outcome of a US court case scheduled for February and brought by British Telecommunications. At issue is the ownership of the concept of web hyperlinks – the HTML code that allows pages of text and graphic images to interconnect.

In its action against US internet services provider Prodigy, BT will claim that its R&D work in the 1970s and 1980s paved the way to the HTML and HTTP hypertext standards developed by Tim Berners-Lee, the Briton generally accepted as the ‘father’ of the World Wide Web.

Last year British Telecommunications blew the dust off an old patent that had lain forgotten in its archive of intellectual properties. This, says BT, covers the concept of hyperlinks and does not expire until 2006.

The initial two-day hearing will be held in New York and is seen by BT as the first phase in “a long process” to enforce its patent. The court’s final judgement will determine whether the telecoms titan can demand royalties from all commercial sites using hyperlinks.

[And that means this site, your site and every other business site on the www. Shares in BT, anyone?]

News source: The Times (London)