BT has sued Prodigy Communications for copyright infringement.

The suit is based on BT's claim to own the US patent for the invention of the hyperlink technology (links between Web pages) used on the Internet.

BT filed the suit in a federal court in White Plains, New York last week. BT declined to give details about any damages it is seeking from Prodigy. Representatives from Prodigy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Discovery BT discovered its ownership of the hyperlink patent in a routine check of its intellectual property. Following the discovery, BT wrote to 17 US ISP's, including Prodigy.

BT asked the ISPs to pay for the privilege of using the technology through licensing agreements. The suit filed against Prodigy, which claims to be the largest consumer ISP in the United States, is the first suit BT has filed to protect its hyperlink patent, according to a BT representative.

"Given that Prodigy was the first commercial Internet service provider in the United States, it is no surprise that British Telecommunications would single us out for this lawsuit," said Dan Iannotti, legal counsel for Prodigy.

ISPs unite Charging BT with stifling the advancement of technology, Iannotti said the BT lawsuit is a petty attempt to attack innovation. Prodigy is calling on ISPs to unite and fight BT's claims.

He said: "This week's lawsuit filed by British Telecommunications against Prodigy Communications threatens how consumers connect to and maneuver on the Internet.

"This lawsuit is a blatant and shameless attempt by BT to capitalize on the success of Prodigy and other pioneers of the Internet. Prodigy intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit and protect the Internet experience that consumers enjoy today. We expect our fellow Internet-service providers, and other companies using the Internet, to join us in this challenge."