Happy 10th Birthday Patent Troll Fail. British Telecom All Your Internets Are Belong to Us.

12 July 2011
Melbourne Australia

Not All Patent Trolls Work, Many are Forgotten. Here is a Big Fail, That Could have Changed the Internet




This week is the 10th anniversary of something special in Patent Troll failure and in my life, i.e. my nickname.

Cast your mind back to 2000, when the millennium bug fizzled.

I was working at BT launching cool products like business broadband, and reducing the lead time to deliver Fast Internet services from 60 days to 24 hours (a big thing at the time).

I was also the face / front line on all legal issues for British Telecom’ Business Internet,  when 64k was fast and cost $7000 a year.

BT hired a small consultancy company (unknown to my pay grade), to research and eventually act on Patent 4,873,662, that was filed in 1976, by the Post Office Division known as Prestel that patented effectively the hyperlink. BT was launched as the sell-off of the British Post Office and of course kept all their patents.

British Telecom sued Prodigy one of the largest ISPs in the world at the time, and lost in court, with Prodigy (now part of AT&T) proving that the hyperlink was a method that was not exclusive to the Internet. Instead of a monetary settlement BT wanted to license the hyperlink to all ISPs and promised to use the money to improve their network. By this time the Internet was also global and the patent filing also only covered the USA, making any ruling against Prodigy, even more unlikely.

During the course of this Prodigy went to their user base to inform them of the lawsuit, and the global press picked up the piece as a whimsical piece of nonsense of BT.

When I was called by the BBC on the matter (not knowing the issue) we (the reporter and I ) laughed at the matter, and I was asked by the reporter, ‘ if I was MR INTERNET’ ?

Sharing the story with colleagues the nickname stuck to this day.

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