The US federal courts have dismissed British Telecom's (BT's) patent claim against Prodigy Communications.

BT had claimed ownership of the patent for hyperlinks, the technology that connects Web data using links.

Judge Colleen McMahon of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a summary judgment in Prodigy's favour saying the company did not violate a patent BT claims for hyperlink technology. The decision follows a previous order from McMahon that limited how BT could present and defend its claims on the patent.

A summary judgment is a ruling in which the judge decides there are no factual issues that remain to be tried in a case and so parts of the case, or the entire complaint, can be decided without a trial. It can be appealed.

BT claimed that its so-called Sargent patent, US patent number 4,873,662, filed in 1976 and granted in 1989, provided the company with the rights to hyperlinking.

“I find that as a matter of law, no jury could find that Prodigy infringes the Sargent patent, nor that Prodigy contributes to infringement of the Sargent patent, nor actively induces others to infringe that patent,” McMahon wrote. “I therefore grant Prodigy's motion for summary judgment.”

Prodigy, now a subsidiary of SBC Communications was the first US commercial ISP (Internet service provider). This made it the target for BT's suit, the company claims.

“At this point, we trust that this will put to rest the claims that have been made,” said an SBC spokesman. “We are hoping that this puts the issue to rest.”

BT did not immediately return calls seeking comment.