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Copyright (c) 2001 by the University of Baltimore Intellectual Property Law Journal
University of Baltimore Intellectual Property Law Journal

ARTICLE: Current Developments in Cyberspace

Spring, 2001

9 U. Balt. Intell. Prop. L.J. 181


Eric B. Easton, Associate Professor of Law University of Baltimore


My assignment this afternoon is to offer a survey of intellectual property issues in Cyberspace. We have already had an excellent presentation on business method patents and a spirited discussion of the Napster case, 1 so I will not spend much time on those issues, except perhaps where they illuminate other contemporary controversies. Rather, I want to focus today on a handful of patent, trademark and copyright cases that -- like Napster -- will determine much of the legal environment in which the new digital economy must exist. Let me begin with some patent cases.

By far the most dramatic is the patent infringement lawsuit that British Telecom ("BT") brought against Prodigy last December in the Southern District of New York. 2 BT claims nothing less than an enforceable patent on the very essence of the World Wide Web -- the "hyperlink." Few commentators take the BT claim seriously; 3 but if it should prove its case in court, the British Empire could rise again.

BT is relying on a U.S. patent issued in 1989, the so-called '662 patent, entitled "Information Handling System and Terminal Apparatus Therefor." In its complaint, BT describes the patent's claims in tactical language as follows:
The '662 patent is directed to, for example, an information handling system including, e.g., a digital information storage, retrieval and display system, such as used for the interconnection between the Internet, the World Wide Web and user terminals. The '662 patent also relates to a system ...
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