- U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon awarded Prodigy its motion for summary judgment to have the case dismissed, saying that no jury could find that Prodigy infringes BT’s patent.
The ruling frees all Internet service providers from the threat of having to pay a license fee to BT for hosting pages that use hyperlinks–the building blocks of the Web. If BT had won and license fees had been imposed, the charges would have almost certainly been passed on to ISP customers.
BT had contacted Prodigy and 16 other ISPs, including America Online, in June 2000, asking them to buy a hyperlink license. When they refused, the British telecommunications giant pursued Prodigy as a test case.
….The hyperlink patent–properly known as the Sargent patent–describes a system in which multiple users, located at remote terminals, can access data stored at a central computer. BT had argued that the Internet infringes the Sargent patent and that Prodigy facilitates infringement by its subscribers by providing them with access to the Internet.
But McMahon found three problems with BT’s arguments. First, she said, the Internet has no “central computer” as described in the Sargent patent. Second, she said that because the Internet itself does not infringe the Sargent patent, “Prodigy cannot be liable for contributory infringement or active inducement for providing its users with access to the Internet.”
And third, said the judge, BT’s argument that Prodigy’s Web servers directly infringe the Sargent patent also fails “because Web pages stored on Prodigy’s Web servers do not contain ‘blocks of information’ or ‘complete addresses’ as claimed in the Sargent patent.”