Patents on Hyperlinking

Index of Select Hyperlink Patents

British Telecom's Hyperlink Patent

  • 4,873,662. Awarded October 10, 1989. This is British Telecom's patent on hyperlinking, entitled "Information handling system and terminal apparatus thereof." Here is the abstract:

    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. 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. The second part of the block could alternatively influence the format and/or color of the display at the terminal. When a block is read from the store of the computer the second part is retained in another store which may be located in the terminal or in the computer itself or perhaps both. The invention is particularly useful in reducing the complexity of the operating protocol of the computer.

    Litigation Involving BT's Hyperlink Patent

    QED (a division of Scipher plc) was hired by British Telecom to manage the licensing of BT's hyperlink patent. According to a June 19, 2000 press release from QED (referenced below):

    "QED - on behalf of BT - has invited Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operating within the USA to enter into licensing agreements. Dr Kenneth Gray, Chairman of Scipher, comments 'BT invented a system which is now used for navigating the World Wide Web. We are delighted that BT has selected us to license this patent in the USA.'"

    On December 13, 2000, BT sued Prodigy Communications (an American ISP) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for direct and contributory infringement upon its hyperlink patent. According to a January 2001 article in Mealey's Cyber Tech Litigation Report (referenced below),

    "BT seeks a declaration that the patent was duly and legally issued, is valid and is enforceable, and that it was directly or contributorily infringed by Prodigy. In addition, BT seeks the case designation of 'exceptional' under the Lanham Act from the court so that it is entitled to the recovery of attorneys' fees and costs, if successful. Finally, BT seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against further infringement by Prodigy."

    Potential Hyperlink Prior Art

    Gregory Aharonian's Internet Patent News Service (referenced below) has noted several possible instances of prior art concerning the BT hyperlink patent, including the Xanadu hypertext project, which originated in the 70's; the "Hypertext Editing System" developed in the 60's and referenced in a 1991 book, "Hypertext: from text to expertext;" and a paper entitled "A hypertext editing system for the [IBM] 360" that was presented at an April 1969 conference at the University of Illinois.

    Additionally, Aharonian is credited with pointing out the use of hypertext in a 1968 demonstration by Douglas C. Engelbart at the Fall Joint Computer Conference/ San Francisco. The Stanford University website (linked to above) hosting video segments of Engelbart's presentation notes that the presentation was

    "...the public debut of the computer mouse. But the mouse was only one of many innovations demonstrated that day, including hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface."
    Also see:

    IBM's "Bookmark Alias" Patent

  • 6,195,707. This is IBM's "Apparatus for implementing universal resource locator (URL) aliases in a web browser and method thereof, filed on October 28, 1998 and granted on February 27, 2001. This patent is classified by the U.S. PTO as class 709 (Electrical Computers and Digital Processing Systems: Multiple Computer or Process Coordinating), subclass 245. Here is the abstract:

    A method and apparatus for URL alias mechanism is implemented. A user-defined alias is associated with a URL. Aliases and the URL to which each corresponds are contained in a file accessible by a web browser. In response to the entry of an alias during a browsing session, the web browser retrieves the associated URL from the alias file, and accesses the corresponding web page. The alias file may be generated in response to a preference selection in the web browser, and in response to the user selecting to edit the file.


    IBM's "Bookmark Alias" patent covers a method of using bookmarks in a web-browser. This patent seems to claim a method where the web-browser user saves a bookmarked URL using an alias - for instance, say the user bookmarked the URL to the U.S. Patent Office ( and labeled that particular bookmark "patentoffice." The user could then enter that alias into the browser's URL field instead of the actual URL to access the bookmarked site. In other words, instead of the user having to type into his browser "", or clicking on a bookmark, he could simply enter "patentoffice" into his browser and be whisked away to the U.S. PTO home page.

    Microsoft's Internet Explorer Service Pack 1, version 5.50 (released for download on November 2, 2000) seems to accomplish many - if not all - aspects claimed by IBM's "Bookmark Alias" patent.

    Lockheed Martin's "Colored Hyperlink" Patent

  • 6154,752. This is Lockheed Martin's "Chronological identification of hyper text links during back tracking" patent, issued on November 28, 2000 and filed on February 13, 1998. Here is the abstract:

    A browser is provided in which the color of a selected linking word in a document is changed to a color that indicates the relative order in which the linking word was selected. As an example, consider a document with three hyperlinking words and the colors red, yellow and green, with red specifying the most recent hyperlink selected, yellow the next most recent, and green the least recent of the three. When the first linking word is selected, its color is changed from, for example the prior art blue, to red when the user drills back to the original web page document. When the next link is selected, it is colored red when the user returns to the original document and the first selected linking word is colored yellow. When a third hyperlinked word is selected, it is colored red on return, the first selected hyperlink word, which was yellow, is colored green, and the second selected hyperlink word, which was red, is colored yellow. The user, looking at the document, can easily determine the sequence or order in which the document was drilled. Here it will be appreciated that the term linking word is not limited to alpha characters, but also includes numerics and icons.


    Current graphical web browsers typically display hyperlinks in a blue typeface, which changes to purple to indicate a "visited" link (of course, webmasters may easily customize these default colors). Lockheed Martin's '752 patent covers the use of multi-colored hyperlinks to designate the chronological order of hyperlinks visited. According to this method, a webpage featuring several hyperlinks would automatically color the text of each link based on the order of the visitor's use. The most recently visited link might be colored red, the second most-recently visted link orange, etc. According to Claim 7 of the '752 patent, "said ordered colors use hot colors of said color spectrum to indicate most recently visited hyperlinks, and said ordered colors use cold colors of said color spectrum to indicate least recently visted hyperlinks." These colors would be updated automatically each time the visitor jumped back to the original website.

    IBM's "Intradocument Link Display" Patent

  • 5,924,104. This is IBM's "Method and apparatus for displaying intradocument links in a computer system," filed on October 3, 1996 and granted on July 13, 1999. Here is the abstract:

    An improved method and apparatus are provided for displaying links on a user display interface in a computer system. A document is parsed to identify links. The identified links are checked to identify intradocument links. The identified intradocument links are displayed in a first presentation style. Other links are displayed in a second presentation style. In accordance with a feature of the invention, the visual cues provided by the distinct presentation styles for intradocument links and interdocument links assist computer users in navigating documents.


    Patent 5,924,104 covers a method of displaying hyperlinks on a "user interface display" such as a web browser. According to the claimed method, "intradocument links" would be presented in one fashion, and other types of links (such as links to other documents) would be presented in another fashion using "predetermined ... visual cues" (claim 2). Examples of such visual cues specified in the claims include underlining and using distinct colors to designate intradocument versus interdocument links.

    Questions, comments and suggestions to Vergil Bushnell

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