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BT To Enforce Patent On Hyperlinking?

CmdrTaco posted more than 14 years ago | from the you-gotta-be-kidding dept.

Patents 441

Bazzargh writes: "This article at nothingventured (annoying but free registration required) says that British Telecom have hired Scipher to enforce (in the US) an old patent -- predating the WWW -- that they hold on the concept of hyperlinking! Apparently they'll be seeking compensation from all ISPs. I've had a look on the IBM Patents Database but I can't see the patent referred to."

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Re:IANAL implied but... (1)

sumner (99758) | more than 14 years ago | (#992191)

Don't patents expire after a certain amount of time? I know if they go after a company like AOL, they will be caught up in court until the patent expires. and if it expires from when it was first filed, it's already been 20 years

In the US, it's 17 years from the date it's awarded. This one was filed for in 1980, but not awarded until 1989. So they've got until 2006.

G. Sumner Hayes

Re:OK Cool, close but no cigar.... (4)

Carnage4Life (106069) | more than 14 years ago | (#992200)

This specifically deals with documents stored on servers, sent through a PSTN to a terminal. It would seem to me, that if you asked six random people (i.e. the jury in the civil lawsuit) to equate a web server and a browser to a server and a client, they wouldn't do it.

Why wouldn't they? A webserver is a server, a browser is a way to display stuff on the client.

I just read the patent three times and cannot believe it. It's a real patent filed for in 1980 long before Tim-Berners-Lee proposed the world wide web [] . To put it simply British Telecom came up with the idea of hyperlinks first, simply not in the context of HTML, but this does not change the fact that they did. To all those claiming this is a sign that patent reform is forthcoming are probably right but for the wrong reasons, in 1980 this was probably an original idea.


Resident Geek (16074) | more than 14 years ago | (#992223)


Good one, BT. Unfortunately, April Fool's Day was a few months ago.

Fools! (2)

Dr. Sp0ng (24354) | more than 14 years ago | (#992225)

What in the hell? People today have no scruples. Don't they realize that the only thing that this could possibly do is kill the web? Imagine if you had to pay royalties to put in a hyperlink?

On that note, though, why are they targetting only ISPs? Couldn't they target every company with a web site?


redhog (15207) | more than 14 years ago | (#992228)

How much are you USians gonna take until the revolution comes?
--The knowledge that you are an idiot, is what distinguishes you from one.

Here is a link to the Patent (5)

jeff_bond (135948) | more than 14 years ago | (#992307)

Here [] is a link to the patent on the IBM patent database.


British Telecom owes me! (1)

Xerithane (13482) | more than 14 years ago | (#992311)

For royalties and service fees for patent violation. Early in the year 1775, I filed for a patent in the USPTO. This patent guaranteed me the monopolistic freedom to sue anyone pursuing royalties for a stupid patent. [] (1)

ethereal (13958) | more than 14 years ago | (#992326)

Oh well, another registration-required site that I won't be visiting. How about including that info in the story summary, so that we don't have to waste our time clicking on the link?

Idiocy (2)

geekopus (130194) | more than 14 years ago | (#992329)

There's no way this can be right. I thought that the idea of a hyperlink has been around since the late 60's? Xanadu or something????

Yet again... (3)

Compenguin (175952) | more than 14 years ago | (#992330)

The government has sold a monopoly, errr.. patent to a company for an odvious technology


ohh my god! (1)

ananke (8417) | more than 14 years ago | (#992344)

this is absolutely amazing. next thing we know, we will have people trying to reinforce patents on toilet paper, and more. when is this madness going to end?

Re:Fools! (1)

bags (78273) | more than 14 years ago | (#992349)

(OT) When will I ever be able to get through to your URL? I'd like to see it, but I haven't ever been able to get through to it... :(

patent application (1)

dithi (88241) | more than 14 years ago | (#992351)

on the IBM patent db, it's listed under "BT invention of air(tm)" describing a breathable gas on planet earth.
i wonder what big-wig at BT thought it would be a good idea to try to enforce this. Idiots.

Bah.. another tax.. (1)

ZiggySocky (199504) | more than 14 years ago | (#992355)

Where'd I hide that old Renegade BBS software. This could be a good thing.. In lots of ways BBS's had more class. Those rat bastahds won't get one penny from me.

cypherpunks:cypherpunks (2)

hobbit (5915) | more than 14 years ago | (#992358)

Or here it is:

RPT: BT to seek to exercise hyperlink patent in U.S. through Scipher
19/06/2000 13:26:41

LONDON (AFX) - British Telecommunications PLC has employed Scipher PLC to exercise a historic patent on hyperlinks, the technology whereby internet sites cross-link to each other, to U.S. internet service providers, Scipher said today.

Dr Ken Gray, chairman of Scipher, said that BT claims to have patented the hyperlink technology in doing their work on information retieval systems, which is used extensively throughout the navigation of the World Wide Web.

He said the patent predates the HTML standard that currently exists.

"On behalf of BT we are attempting to licence (hyperlink technology), and inviting licences to be taken out by ISPs in the States," Gray said.

"We will be inviting ISP's in the U.S. to licence that technology from us."

This One Might Be the Enchilada (1)

Ho-Lee-Cow! (173978) | more than 14 years ago | (#992360)

Wow, this one might be big and bad enough that the whole patent system might take a shake. I can see all those ISPs calling up representatives to get the matter dealt with.

Good one, BT. You may yet absolve us of stupid software patents.

why are we so afraid? (1)

boinger (4618) | more than 14 years ago | (#992362)

or should I say "why should we be so afraid?" (as I am not in the least).

The only thing that could come of this is this asinine company lining the pockets of a few lawyers who jump on the bandwagon (I don't blame the lawyers - wouldn't you take money from idiots like them?). This case can't possibly go anywhere but to dismissal. I just hope a precedent isn't set too quickly. The more time the company has to file suits, the more money they'll lose.

Don't act too quickly - idiocy takes time.

Hah (1)

nebby (11637) | more than 14 years ago | (#992364)

The fact they think they can enforce this is pretty funny. This is nearly equivalent to trying to patent the concept of verbs. (2)

httptech (5553) | more than 14 years ago | (#992372)

Username: cypherpunks
Password: cypherpunks

Patent Info (1)

starling (26204) | more than 14 years ago | (#992376)

Here's a link [] to the patent.

No reg. required at The Register (1)

dan of the north (176417) | more than 14 years ago | (#992377)

Story here

Login: cyberpunk pw: cyberpunk (1)

James Hetfield (14513) | more than 14 years ago | (#992381)

Enjoy the show!!!
"Then it comes to be,
that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel,
is just a frieght train coming your way..... "

No registration (1)

BobBilly (144079) | more than 14 years ago | (#992384)

Here's one for all you "replace www. with partners." crap........what's the magic key for this site?

Why win9x really sucks [] (1)

gwalla (130286) | more than 14 years ago | (#992387)

cypherpunk (password: cypherpunk) works.
Zardoz has spoken!

This is an outrage! (3)

TheDullBlade (28998) | more than 14 years ago | (#992389)

How dare they choose to sue the ISPs!

Obviously, the people writing the browsers are the ones who are infringing on the patent.

They must sue MS! We must make this clear to them!

(cypherpunk, cypherpunk seems to work here, too)

International not ready for Internet (1)

lanner (107308) | more than 14 years ago | (#992392)

Way to go BT! You have once again proved that people in other countries (let us not even talk about people in this country, notably the U.S. government, and Unisys) do not understand the internet.

I guess the people at BT ignored this statment made by their own Cheif Executive Officer, Sir Peter Bonfield; btnews_corpdoc.jsp?BV_SessionID=@@@@190570 1115.0961433426@@@@&BV_EngineID=calidckiijjbekfcfk cfcgeo.0&newsItem=9404

Unenforcable (1)

michael.creasy (101034) | more than 14 years ago | (#992395)

Given that we've all been hyperlinking for ages and BT has said nothing isn't it a case of well, tough, if BT wanted to enforce the patent they should have done it ages ago. IANAL BTW.

This patent is invalid- prior art is present ('60) (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 14 years ago | (#992410)

Ted Nelson coined the term. Ted Nelson attempted a more audacious version with micropayments, etc. starting in 1960. This predates the patent grant by over 20 years!

BT's in for a nasty surprise.

Here's a login. (5)

pen (7191) | more than 14 years ago | (#992413)

l:slashdotuser p:freelogin


Headline: BT gains patent for bullshit (1)

Compenguin (175952) | more than 14 years ago | (#992418)

British Telecom has just patented Bullshit and its smell!


BT==Missing Thumbs (1)

clustersnarf (236) | more than 14 years ago | (#992420)

Aparantly some people are walking around with their thumbs permanantly inserted into their sphincter. It is really hard to fathom that someone thinks that this kind of suit would work. THe free information economy is loooming ahead and big business is getting worried that they will no longer leverage control over the whole world, the information contained therein, and people in general. I hope this is tossed out and laughed at. Noone would ever accept terms like that. pay one entity for hyperlinking... go fuck yourself.

Suuure (1)

Grexnix (94113) | more than 14 years ago | (#992422)

So British Telecom is going to trawl through every single one of the billions of pages on the internet (something nobody has ever managed so far), total up the links used, identify the author of the page and then send him/her a bill for hyperlink usage? In every single country in the world, regardless of conflicting international laws?

Dream on, BT.

-- (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#992425)

Oh well, another registration-required site that I won't be visiting. How about including that info in the story summary, so that we don't have to waste our time clicking on the link?

You mean like this?

Bazzargh writes: "This article at nothingventured (annoying but free registration required)


Nuke the limeys (1)

MaximumBob (97339) | more than 14 years ago | (#992426)

Hmmm... Well, in this case, I don't think we need a revolution. That's not the problem here. The problem is a British company with the most inane patent I've ever heard of. In theory, we've been free from Britain for what, 223 years? (224 in a couple of weeks)

Perhaps if we dropped a hundred megaton bomb on London, British Telecom would back off, no?

At your service (3)

Farq Fenderson (135583) | more than 14 years ago | (#992430)

And for those of you who don't wish to register at the news site, the l/p: anoncoward/anoncoward phenomenon is now in effect...
script-fu: hash bang slash bin bash

This again?! (3)

Tiger Smile (78220) | more than 14 years ago | (#992431)

Dear England,

Every so sorry to inform you again, that we are not interested in paying taxes to you. I thought we made that clear in Boston. Again, I'm so sorry the message was not clear. That is something I cannot apologize for enough. Sorry, sorry, and sorry.

What I have trouble uderstanding is that after killing so many of your "red coats", how did we leave you with the idea in mind that we still wanted to be taxed. I fear we, here in the "states", are not good at communication.

Never the less, do have you people speak to ours. We'll setup a meeting, and "do lunch" as they say.

PS: Please be kind to us, after all we did help a little with that small Hitler problem. Thanks.

-- With love,
The States

Re:Here is a link to the Patent (2)

Rand Race (110288) | more than 14 years ago | (#992445)

"This invention relates to an information handling system in which information is derived from a computer at a remote point and transmitted via the public telephone network to terminal apparatus. The invention also includes the terminal apparatus itself. "

That last line is the kicker. As I understand it, the bitmapped CRT display predates the 1989 date of this patent. Game Over. Please don't play again BT.

Get out your guns... (1)

acidrain (35064) | more than 14 years ago | (#992449)

If we wil die for oil, then why not hypertext. I think a few missle-platform-helicopters followed by an army of armed nerds hopped up on coffee and trained on quake can put an end to this evil.

Damnit (4)

cwhicks (62623) | more than 14 years ago | (#992451)

Damnit! Reading this just cost me $.03! I hope I can make it back to my own server in less than $1.75.

This is worse... (1)

suwalski (176418) | more than 14 years ago | (#992452)

Man, this is even worse than that GIF patent. Even stupider than that 'fresh grass scent' copyright we saw here on slashdot a while back. When will people stop patenting these absurd things!

Besides the creativity of an easy was of earning a buck, I think of these people as losers.

Re:This is an outrage! (1)

Anonymous Karma (199687) | more than 14 years ago | (#992455)

Actually, you're right. The ISP's don't infringe on this patent (except by making web pages - but if I make something with a tool that's violating a patent, am I liable?). The browser manufacturers do. Sue MS. Sue AOL/Netscape. Sue Opera. Sue the W3C. Sue the Lynx team.

Either that, or the RIAA should be suing the ISP's for Napster, as well. Nggg. Arrrg.

Xanadu is prior art- this patent is invalid. (2)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 14 years ago | (#992456)

Ted Nelson started on hyperlinking (In fact, he came up with the term in the first place!) in 1960 and had been attempting to develop it with micropayments since that time- hit for details of the history.

This could be the wakeup call. (1)

Foochar (129133) | more than 14 years ago | (#992458)

This could be the patent mistake that finally wakes the general public up to just how messed up the Intelectual Property laws have gotten. Most of the screwy patent decisions that have been made so far have only atracted the attention of the "geeks." This one has the potential to attract widespread attention.

Lets face it, how many people have the potential to be affected by Amazon's affiliate program patent or the one-click patent? It dosen't affect Joe Web User. This has the potential to affect us all where we are most sensitive the wallet.

Hopefully this is just a misinterpretation of some statement made by a moronic middle manager, but if it isn't then we could be in for a wild ride. Remember one of the necesities for any form of government is the consent of the governed. Even in the cold war soviet union the people consented, granted at the threat of death, to be governed. If everyone, and I don't mean everyone on slashdot, I mean a majority of the population of a given country, refuse to be governed by a law then there is nothing that the government can do about it.

Seeking from whom? (1)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#992459)

Leaving aside for the moment the basic stupidity of what they are doing and also the fact that I misread "pre-WWW" as "pre-WWII"....

Why are they asking ISP's to license the technology? Well, I know why: money. Let me rephrase: How do they expect this to get by any court of law (even in the US)?

ISP's have nothing to do with hyperlinking. All they do is return a page based on a URL request. It's the BROWSERS that handle hyperlinking. Actually, that's not true either. All the browser does is highlight and underline a marked piece of text.

They really want to contact W3C. Hyperlinking is a feature of an "application" (the web) that is "supported" by them.
Compaq dropping MAILWorks?

Linkified (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#992468)

It's about time (1)

Peter Eckersley (66542) | more than 14 years ago | (#992471)

This is genuinely fabulous news.

Maybe, just maybe, this might spark some sensible patent law reform.

I think BBS Menus Count Against This (1)

scotpurl (28825) | more than 14 years ago | (#992477)

I think most of the old BBS menus fit the description of this, and predate it. I also remember dialing in over a 300 baud accoustic modem on a VT220 terminal and playing ASCII Star Trek on a mainframe before this patent was applied for. That version of Star Trek certainly meets the description. :-) (1)

ethereal (13958) | more than 14 years ago | (#992480)


Bring Back Buzby! (5)

jd (1658) | more than 14 years ago | (#992483)

An infuriating talking yellow cartoon bird at least didn't give with one claw and rip away with the other.

This has GOT to be the most blatant scam BT has pulled in a long time. It's certainly comparable to their 35 GBP connect charges + time charges + packet charches + phone charges, for their early rival to the Internet, the International Packet Switch Stream.

The idea may have been patented, but "linking" has existed to the earliest days of man. A bit before BT's time! The idea of placing a reference, rather than a complete description, appears in early forms of writing, early naming systems (ever wondered how people got the surname of Cook, Baker, Smith, etc?), early artwork (cave paintings are essentially URLs to the animals being hunted), myths and legends (cross-references are everywhere in that stuff), and even appears in early architecture.

So, unless the patent can be shown to have been granted 10,000 years ago, in which case I'd check it's expiry date, it has been in common usage prior to the patent being granted, which is grounds for dismissal of the patent.

Index (1)

Ka0s64 (200106) | more than 14 years ago | (#992485)

Hyperlinks come the closest in my mind to the index in a book. They both direct you to different regions, the hyperlink to a webpage, the index to a page in the book. So maybe I should patent the index for books and magazines, and get paid royalties for everything published with an index. Obviously this is stupid, I see no plausible way for someone to recieve royalties for hyperlinks. I guess I owe them money for this right? [www.slashd...gfontcolor]

From the patent: (1)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#992507)

" response to a keyboard entry signal. ...selected by the operation of a selected key of the keyboard."

Easy way out: ISP's include a clause requiring users to use their mouse to click on hyperlinks.
Compaq dropping MAILWorks?

hrmmm. (2)

paRcat (50146) | more than 14 years ago | (#992510)

ok, apparently this [] is the patent. Two things that bother me:

1) It is a patent regarding terminals. Specifically, links to what they refer to as "blocks". "Blocks" that can control things such as the color on a terminal. I'm assuming that doesn't mean filesystem blocks.. so what exactly is it referring to?

2) It was filed August 15, 1980. How is it possible for this to apply to something that didn't exist yet? I mean, the patent covers a link that controls things like color on a terminal. Hyperlinks consist of addresses to other computers. Hyperlinks don't control the browser at all, they just allow a computer to connect to another. HTML controls what the browser displays.

So what's the deal?

The US patent system has a bug... (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 14 years ago | (#992513)

In the UK in order to get a patent, there must be no prior publication of the ideas.

This is a good thing; and this case is a fantastic example of why.

BT did emphatically NOT invent the concept of hyperlinks. At best they bought the patent of someone else, who didn't invent it either.

Hypertext was invented in the 1960s by Doug Engelbart, and the term Hypertext was coined in 1968 by Ted Nelson. The patent would have run out by now if it had been patented at that time.

In the US it is entirely different of course... if someone else invents something but you steal the idea and stick a few grand down- the idea is now legally yours and you can successfully sue the person who invented it!

The US patent system is nutty.

Ok.. uh.. (1)

windex (92715) | more than 14 years ago | (#992515)

Shouldn't they be suing Microsoft for having a File menu?... This is absoutley insane. There are *hundreds* of things that this could relate to, they could even sue the University of Washington for making Pine, because, it has, "Informaton for display at a terminal apparatus of a computer is stored in blocks the first part of which contains the information which is actually displayed at the terminal and the second part of which contains information relating to the display and which may be used to influence the display at the time or in response to a keyboard entry signal. " ..... *sigh*
--- 'dex

forgot what site I was reading.... (2)

HomerJ (11142) | more than 14 years ago | (#992518)

Some British company, and some goofy story about how they are going to use patents to destory the web in their attempt to own it.

Thought I was reading The Register for a second =)

They should really go after MS... (1)

FroMan (111520) | more than 14 years ago | (#992519)

Doesn't the MS help system work with hyperlinks?

It would seem to me that MS will be really hurting when this comes to issue.

Patent... (1)

bdowne01 (30824) | more than 14 years ago | (#992522)

Sorry all, but I patented breathing in 1974. So, you all will have to pay royalties everytime you breathe. Smokers also have to pay taxes.

Claims don't describe hyperlinking to me. (1)

Forrest J. Cavalier (16105) | more than 14 years ago | (#992523)

First point: You can "invite" anyone to license a patent, regardless of whether you have grounds to sue them under the patent.

Second, to me it doesn't sound like the patent describes hyperlinking. How many navigate the WWW by using a keypad to select numbered menu items?

Claim 5(d)
(d) keypad means coupled to at least one of said modem means and said local memory means for manual entry of keyed digital data,
(f) means coupled to said further memory means and to said keypad means for addressing such second portion stored in said further memory means using keypad digital data of less extent than any one of said complete addresses for another block of information to address a portion of the further memory means and cause a read-out portion of the further memory means to supply the complete address of the next block of information which is to be retrieved and utilized for display purposes, the thus obtained complete address being transmissible via the modem means to said central computer.

RocketAware: [] Code and the knowledge to use it!

Too bad the idea has been around since the Koran!! (2)

mattkime (8466) | more than 14 years ago | (#992524)

The idea of hyperlinking can actually be traced back to the reading of the Koran, cross-referenced with the writings of prophets. When one reads the Koran, you switch between the main text and the subtexts fluently. Hypertext links.

(thats the rough ida, perhaps someone with a more in-depth knowledge of Islam would care to add....)

Re:Here is a link to the Patent (1)

James Durie (1426) | more than 14 years ago | (#992526)

The patent application was made by the GPO in 1976. It was only granted in 1989.

Re:Unenforcable (2)

a42 (136563) | more than 14 years ago | (#992527)

Unfortunately, I don't think this is the case.

Q:How long did Unisys not enforce the LZW patent before deciding that their patent had been infringed?

A:Until somebody with cash (Microsoft) started making a web browser that displayed GIF images compressed with their patented algorithm.

I feel so cheated.. (1)

BandSaw (104086) | more than 14 years ago | (#992528)

I went to your link using Mozilla on *nix, and nothing happened. I can see that I must give in and upgrade to windows if I want to see the latest cool web stuff.

Thank you for helping me see the light.

Does this remind anyone... (3)

gwalla (130286) | more than 14 years ago | (#992529)

...of the attempt to enforce a patent on browser status bars a few years ago? That fell through, and this will, too. We have nothing to fear from this. The government wouldn't dare enforce this, because there's too much money invested in the Internet right now.

Which is a problem, if you think about it. The government will only pay attention to freedoms on the web whule there's money in it. And that's why the economic downturn among the dotcoms is bad (along with the unemployment it will cause, of course). As soon as it doesn't look like the Internet is creating multimillionaires capable of donating large amounts of cash to campaigns, and they can't be accused of stifling business opportunities (the businesses having already stifled themselves, and the opportunities having dried up), Congress will move to establish as much control as possible.

Zardoz has spoken!

All I have to say... (1)

graniteMonkey (87619) | more than 14 years ago | (#992530)

Whoo hoooHaHaHaHa!!! Those British have a real sense of "humour", I've got to tell you.

Don't overreact, guys. Just give it the hardy chuckle it deserves and move on with your day.

I mean, honestly, who is going to take this seriously??? ...Unless USPTO has say in this... ::silence:: (1)

Bazzargh (39195) | more than 14 years ago | (#992550)

Actually I didn't say /annoying/ - the editor put that in. But it was one of the most annoying registration screens I've ever used. Evening telephone number??!??

I refrained from putting up the full text because my original story (which did have that) was rejected.(probably because at the time I couldnt find a usable link back to the story)

Actually this may be a good thing (3)

Phroggy (441) | more than 14 years ago | (#992552)

Obviously, the patent system has gotten out of hand lately. We all know that. This may be just the thing to get it fixed, though, and I suspect that may be what BT is doing. If so, kudos to them.

Do you honestly think that AOL Time Warner, Microsoft, Earthlink, etc. will actually start paying royalties to British Telecom for something as lame as hyperlinks?!? Hell no. They're huge companies with a large influence in the federal government, and if they all get hit with this, I have no doubt that the patent system will be changed.


Re:This again?! (4)

nstrug (1741) | more than 14 years ago | (#992554)

Dear States,

If you're so keen on avoiding patent payments to foreign-owned compaies, why do you award them patents?

Re:Here is a link to the Patent (2)

Ex-NT-User (1951) | more than 14 years ago | (#992556)

um like the gopher protocol did this back way before 1989. I don't think we have anything to worry about here.

Alternate source (1)

dadith (119849) | more than 14 years ago | (#992557)

Well, here [] is the register's version of the story and you don't have to hand in DNA samples to read it.
Not that it helped _me_ very much understanding the patent it is definatly beyond my english skills. Ciao, Peter

Relax (1)

buzzcutbuddha (113929) | more than 14 years ago | (#992558)

If you read the patent Description, the first line reads:

This invention relates to an information handling system in which information is derived from a computer at a remote point and transmitted via the public telephone network to terminal apparatus. The invention also includes the terminal apparatus itself.

which means that the patent also includes the computer to access thishyperlinking ability. Specifically it relates to a cathode-ray tube
terminal responding to keystrokes. I would think that hyperlinks in web docs are alright therefore, of course, IANAL....

Re:Patent on breathing (1)

BilldaCat (19181) | more than 14 years ago | (#992559)

Guess what. That still isn't funny, nor are any of the other "I patented air, I patented water, I patented electricity, I patented your mom" posts.

A few scenarios... (3)

stienman (51024) | more than 14 years ago | (#992560)

I can see one of a few scenarios occuring...

The ISPs all laugh and go about their business, assuming that BT wouldn't sue them all.

The ISPs point their finger at W3C and say, "We were just using THEIR spec. THEY told us it was OK."

The courts show that for well over 10 years British Telecom was NOT enforcing its patent, and therefore loses any royalties gained from its use.

BT spends a few million pursuing this lawsuit, we all have a good laugh, and get on with our lives.

BT spends several million, lobbies for several years, and causes millions of people to volunteer their computer and bandwidth to the most massive DDOS attack ever conceived, targetting any computer related to BT attached to the internet, and simply kick them off by force. (ie, mark their report card, "Doesn't play nice with others.")

No matter what happens though, I doubt we'll have to change anything more than our terminology. I don't hyperlink. I just annotate my pages with relevant information, which may, or may not, be found on another page. These marks are made in english, and some browsers convert the marking to a highlight and automatically go to my reference if the marking is clicked. (sorry, I guess BT with have to go after people who make browsers now...)


"For example,
after I [found] myself being attacked by csh,
csh was shot by friendly fire from behind,
possibly by tcsh or xv,
and my session was abruptly terminated. "
Dennis Chao on the new machine process management utility, "Doom"

Read the patent (1)

dewboy (22280) | more than 14 years ago | (#992561)

If you read the patent, it describes a physical system used for data retrieval. As far as I can tell, BT is claiming that hyperlinks (a part of the HTML protocol) are the equivalent of that physical system. Claiming patent rights on data retrieval in general can only be valid if BT pursues the rights under a "method of doing business" appeal. Unfortunately, at the time of the patent (1980, which, by the way, was over TWENTY YEARS ago, and therefore invalid), "methods of doing business" were unpatentable per the rules of patent law. Thus, BT could not claim that they were patenting a method of doing business at the time.

This is absurd. (1)

11390036 (158863) | more than 14 years ago | (#992562)

This patent predated the WWW which began its explosion in the early 1990s. Why did they decide to wait so long to 'require a royalty'? So they could make it seem like there were no patents or restrictions to setting up shop (i.e. using hyperlinks) on the internet, then coming out with this news to thousands of ISPs once the illusion of free facilited enough growth for them to make a nice wad of cash? I think it has something to do with it. Also, links (as in posix links in the filesystem, and short-cuts in microsoft windows, and aliases in the Mac camp) have been around a while, are quite useful features. I think hyper-linking is a natural extension of this as we can now see with IE x.x internet shortcuts and the like.

This is going to go nowhere. No I'm not just guessing, I'm using common sense. This is BS. Just like that little jpg liscensing fiasco by Unisys that was nothing but rumor. For those that aren't farmiliar, watch the saga unfold! /08/29/0722236.shtml [] /08/31/0143246.shtml [] /10/31/1337238.shtml [] /04/18/1949239.shtml []

IANAL, but... (1)

nigiri (22248) | more than 14 years ago | (#992563)

It seems to me, that the continual references throughout the patent to a "central computer" and "terminals" describes something vastly different from simple "hyperlinks". Unless they're prepared to try to enforce their patent on the entire idea of client/server architecture they're on pretty shaky ground here.


Patent doesn't seem to cover HTML links... (1)

rkent (73434) | more than 14 years ago | (#992564)

Hey, read the abstract. Okay, I admit, I didn't read any further than that :), but basically what it covers is a system for storing computer information in two sections, the first of which contains the actual data, and the second of which contains "information pertaining to the display of that data," such as keyboard shortcuts and, yes, hyperlinks.

Based on that, it seems like they'd ought to be suing Apple over the "forked" file system, which sounds a lot more like what they described. But anyway, since links in HTML are interleaved with the content, it really doesn't seem to fit under their description at all.

IANAL implied but... (3)

GoNINzo (32266) | more than 14 years ago | (#992572)

Someone posted the link to the patent here [] . This one was filed in 1980 and finished in 1989, and seems to imply simplifying the use of the OS and using the network. I'm not sure if this is the correct patent, because I see several 'issues' with it as relating to hyperlinks.

It seems like the guy had a very specific use of these links, coresponding to function keys and modems. The use of a modem is implied in all manners, with only references to using the 'telephone network'. In fact, the term 'modem' is used 18 times, while the term 'telephone network' is used 7 times. However, the idea of a data network or a LAN is completely missed under this patent.

Hence, only ISP's might be liable to the usage of this patent. IE, people using a 'modem' as it was in those days, MOdulation-DEModulation. Those of us on ISDN, cable, ADSL, and com-grade services are not affected. `8r)

Don't patents expire after a certain amount of time? I know if they go after a company like AOL, they will be caught up in court until the patent expires. and if it expires from when it was first filed, it's already been 20 years.

It'd be pretty funny to have someone say 'You cannot use a modem any more to access the internet' forcing everyone to upgrade to another type of high speed connection though. that wouldn't be a bad thing for our society, IMHO. Cheap, easy frame relay drops for everyone!

Gonzo Granzeau

That's it! (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#992576)

I hope this guy meets one of these [] patented babies instead of me, because when I'm done using this [] patented device, he'll need some patented cutting edge [] medical tools! Afterall, there is no UNDO [] operation for people like me getting medival on your patent-pending ass! And when I'm done, I'll read VOGON POETRY [] to you!

Prior-Art-a-Palooza! (5)

SoupIsGood Food (1179) | more than 14 years ago | (#992579)

Any Mac afficionado worth her single-button mouse knows the name Vannevar Bush and his concept of hypermedia, which detailed most of what's covered in that patent, only this was well before the second world war. Ted Nelson has worked for most of the second half of the twentieth century bringing Bush's vision into fruition using computer science. The technology he developed is called "hypertext", and has been implemented in everything from the old Xerox Star to the Apple's Hypercard. Hypercard has been around since '87, and does pretty much what the BT patent describes.

Prior art, bay-bee! Can't wait to see the AOL (doing GUI-centric internetworking before internetworking was cool) lawyers put the smack-down on these idiots.

SoupIsGood Food

Re:Nuke the limeys (1)

NevDull (170554) | more than 14 years ago | (#992580)

Hell, the Brits should be in enough trouble with the RIP bill in Parliament now.

"Hi. We're the British Government. Give us your encryption keys and decrypt this document for us. Refuse, forget the key, or tell your boss that we made you do this, and you're in jail."

Being an American in Britain for the past 5 weeks, I've come to appreciate that as fucked as the American system is, it's... err... fixable.

Better solution than nuking Britain would be to distribute some crack with a serious toxin in it, and eliminate anyone who's been to more than one WWF event or been on Jerry Springer, then reassess. The US can at that point consider ourselves to have gotten rid of the bottom 10-20% of the population, and can spend our time on useful things like un-fucking fucked up patents, and not on stupid shit.

Me? Bitter about the scum? Naaah.

Re:hrmmm. (1)

Platinum Dragon (34829) | more than 14 years ago | (#992582)

Not just that...but aren't patents only supposed to be enforceable for 17 years after the date of issuance? Even if the patent was granted five years later, that would only give BT a couple more years to rake it in...unless some moronic legislative manoeuvreing has given them a hammerlock on hyperlinking for another 90 years or so.

Re:Idiocy (1)

ZikZak (153813) | more than 14 years ago | (#992583)

No, that was a roller skating movie staring Olivia Newton John and it was from the 80's, not the 60's.

Re:Fools! (1)

John Napkintosh (140126) | more than 14 years ago | (#992584)

I remember something floating around the web a couple of years ago about Microsoft patenting ones and zeros. That made me laugh almost as much as this...

Non-registration story (1)

MartinB (51897) | more than 14 years ago | (#992585)

The good people over at The Register have the story without registration [] [sic].

Re:Yet again... (1)

infodragon (38608) | more than 14 years ago | (#992586)

I could be wrong, someone correct me if I am, but I thought an idea could not be patented, only an implementation of an idea.

The idea of hyperlinking cannot be patented but the implementation can be. So the questions are what is the implementation that is patented and who is using it?

OK Cool, close but no cigar.... (5)

DebtAngel (83256) | more than 14 years ago | (#992587)

<b>IANAL</b>, but you would know that two sentences in.

This specifically deals with documents stored on servers, sent through a PSTN to a terminal. It would seem to me, that if you asked six random people (i.e. the jury in the civil lawsuit) to equate a web server and a browser to a server and a client, they wouldn't do it. Especially if one of them has a cable modem.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Personally, I think Microsoft should buy Nothern Telecom - that way they can say they invented the hyperlink, just like they invented the Symbolic Link!

Then hopefully they will go on to prove that black is white and Steve Ballmer (I don't feel like picking on Bill Gates any more - it's too easy) will get killed at the next zebra crossing.

Re:This patent is invalid- prior art is present (' (1)

Rombuu (22914) | more than 14 years ago | (#992588)

To bad Ted Nelson never delivered a working version of anything in his life.

I belive that prior art applies to implmentations...

Al Gore (1)

BgJonson79 (129962) | more than 14 years ago | (#992589)

Well, as Al Gore invented the Internet, maybe BT will have to pay him royalties.

Re:I think BBS Menus Count Against This (1)

BandSaw (104086) | more than 14 years ago | (#992590)

Ha! You had it easy. We used to play star trek on a teletype machine. Used lots of paper that way.

Read the patent -- it won't fly... (5)

Wee (17189) | more than 14 years ago | (#992591)

From the IBM Patents DB [] :
This invention relates to an information handling system in which information is derived from a computer at a remote point and transmitted via the public telephone network to terminal apparatus. The invention also includes the terminal apparatus itself.
Now, I'm not a lawyer, but the patent mentions phone lines, central servers, and "terminal apparatus" quite a bit. Which doesn't sound like the WWW at all. Sounds a lot more like gopher to me.

Anyway, they would have to claim that the "phone lines" are the Net's backbone, the "central server" is anyone with Apache running, and the "terminal apparatus" is the browser.

Here's some more that makes it sound distincntly unWWW-like:

It has been proposed to provide for domestic and/or business consumers a simplified form of computer terminal by means of which information stored in a computer can be obtained from it via the public telephone network. The form of the terminal is different from a conventional computer terminal, both in the simplicity of its operation and in the form of its display.

the screen in the form of a sequence of progressively more detailed indices by means of which an operator is enabled to key-in to a key pad provided for the terminal numbers identifying a particular page of information which he requires. Since the system is to be operated by unskilled operators it is important that the key required be of self-evident nature and inevitably this will restrict the nature of facilities which the computer can provide.

Difficulties arise in such a system, however, because of the need to ensure the simplicity of operation of the terminal, bearing in mind the likelihood that the significance of particular keying inputs may need to be varied in dependence on the data being displayed.

It is an object of the present invention to alleviate the above difficulty.

Now tell me that sounds like the concept of hyperlinking. I don't think so. The only thing they even came close to getting right was the part about "the system is to be operated by unskilled operators". There's no arguing with that.

I really hope we can get some US patent reform. Does anyone know of a decent movement to let our US representatives know how silly this has all become? I mean, everyone smells money in the "digital goldrush", and so they do inane thingsd like attempt patent enforcements like this. But everyone forgets that the only people to make a lasting living off the California Goldrush 1800's were the guys selling food and equipment to the miners (ever wonder where Levi's Jeans came from?). Everyone would be much better off letting the WWW do what it wants while concentrating on becoming the one that facillitates those goals.

This whole thing blows.


Slashdot exercises patent on the letter "A" (2)

xerx (63759) | more than 14 years ago | (#992592)

FANTASYLAND (AFX) - Slashdot plans to exercise a historic patent on the letter "A", the letter when combined with other letters is used to form words.

CmdrTaco, chairman of all things, said that Slashdot claims to have patented the letter "A" in doing their work on time travel systems, which was used to travel back in time immediately before the letter "A" was first thought of.

He said the patent predates the English Language that currently exists.

"We are attempting to licence (the letter "A"), and inviting licences to be taken out by all people dumb enough to do so," CmdrTaco said.

Just when your sure you seen the dumbest thing ever... Look again.

This must be a joke (1)

BoneFlower (107640) | more than 14 years ago | (#992593)


Even if the patent was legitimate(burning 8 permanent willpower to say that) there is no way in hell they would win the case. Just imagine how much money is available to fight this. AOL or Microsoft could handle it.. Wait not Microsoft, they lose in court. But EVERY ISP, everyone who runs a webpage who could be added, all the geeks who would donate to the already multibillion dollar legal defense fund... My god they think they can win against that force?

This patent seems to cover pretty much the entire Internet. Remember gopher? It could be navigated by entering a key for the information that you want and brought pages of information to be displayed on your CRT.

Looking further this might not cover HTML... It refers to "The details relating to the page of information may be retained in the computer, for example, in a special register provided for the purpose," which could mean since the details relating to pages in HTML are stored on the terminal, not the server(which is apparently what they mean by "computer") HTML is fine. But what they are trying to patent in 1989 was done on bulletin boards, Gopher, just about any client/server setup prior to the WWW. Even if it covers HTML, it certainly seems to cover those as well. They have no leg to stand on. Every BBS and Gopher system prior to 1989 qualifies as prior art.

IANAL, but it seems not to apply (1)

Montressor (34631) | more than 14 years ago | (#992594)

Aside from the use of terminals and modems that has already been pointed out by others, there are other limitations to the patent.
It refers to :two: blocks of data. One is text, the other is control. This is very different from hyperlinks, which are :embedded: in the data.
Additionally, the patent literally refers to :keyboard: signals as a navigation method, which is pretty weak terminology.

Yes, kill MS and NS - the evil twins (2)

TheDullBlade (28998) | more than 14 years ago | (#992610)

They've got the money, they're the best ones to sue. Make a quick buck, stomp on some important people, and then leave the little guys alone so everybody admires them.

Then with no clear industry-dominant browsers, people would have to start obeying the standards. Then, anyone could write a web browser, because they would just have to follow the standards instead of matching all the commonly exploited bugs in NSN and MSIE.

NS screwed up the web with their "extensions", and MS has pretty much taken over this disgusting business for them. If they both go, so does the E&E strategy that keeps down all of their competitors.

Finally, freedom finds the web!


BT have truly lost it. (1)

Jetifi (188285) | more than 14 years ago | (#992614)

As a Britisher, one who thinks that BT have done more than any other company in the UK to hold back the development of cheap, reliable and fast internet access (doing all kinds of damage to our economy in the process), I think BT have truly lost it this time. One more bad move like that and they might as well change their name Microsoft.

Seriously, that's what comes of listening to your lawyers - witness MPAA vs 2600, M$ vs /. and M$ vs Doj, etc...

Re:Fools! (2)

Dr. Sp0ng (24354) | more than 14 years ago | (#992617)

(OT) When will I ever be able to get through to your URL? I'd like to see it, but I haven't ever been able to get through to it... :(

Fucking DSL is down again... you have Northpoint to blame for that. Hopefully it'll be up in the next few days.
-- (1)

gwalla (130286) | more than 14 years ago | (#992618)

But it was one of the most annoying registration screens I've ever used. Evening telephone number??!??

I thought requiring the user's title was classic. Why do they want to know my title, of all things? (It would be Mr., BTW, since I have no other title). The country list was also quite fun: 5 entries for parts of the UK, and "other". And people accuse Americans of being ethnocentric!

Zardoz has spoken!

Re:Here is a link to the Patent (4)

daiw (111835) | more than 14 years ago | (#992619)

The Patent [] reads
For example, the second part of the block could include information for providing the complete address of an another block which would be selected by the operation of a selected key of the keyboard.
So, their patent only covers hyperlink using a keyboard to activative the link. I've read their "claims" section, even in it they didn't mention about other means of activation (e.g. mouse click). AFAIK, patent laws only a protects the exact implementation.

Does it meant that only the lynx users are affected?:)

--- No sig.

Re:Too bad the idea has been around since the Kora (1)

Art Tatum (6890) | more than 14 years ago | (#992620)

I think the Jewish Talmud has something like this too. (Commentary surrounding the main text). It isn't really like hyper linking I guess, but...
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