BT - which owns the patent to hypertext links - has begun its legal fight to claim back millions of dollars in licensing revenue from US ISPs.
Intellectual property attorneys, Kenyon & Kenyon yesterday filed a case on behalf of BT against Prodigy Communications Corp in New York State.
The legal challenge asserts BT's patented claim to hypertext links or the "hidden page" as it was described in the original patent.
If BT wins this test case it would open the doors to a massive claim from BT for revenues.
A spokesman for BT said that the case against Prodigy did not exclude action against other ISPs.
BT declined to say how much money it wanted Prodigy to cough up. Instead, a BT spokesman said the monster telco was looking for a "reasonable royalty".
"BT has a responsibility to assert its intellectual property," said a BT spokesman.
"Many companies both sides of the Atlantic make revenues from exploiting their intellectual property," he said.
In June, BT said it owned the patent to hyperlinks and wanted ISPs in the US to cough up hard cash for the privilege of using them. Since then it has been negotiating with a number of ISPs in the US over recouping revenue.
But it has always insisted that if this proved fruitless, it would resort to legal action.
The monster telco said a patent filed in 1976 - and granted in 1989 - proves it owns the intellectual property rights to those natty little devices that link Web content together.
Patent 4,873,662 was lodged following work on text-based online information systems Viewdata and Prestel by the General Post Office (GPO) before it was split into the Post Office and BT.
No one at Prodigy returned calls this afternoon. When we explained the situation to one woman, she just laughed. Out loud. Uncontrollably. ®