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British Telecommunications V Prodigy Communications

British Telecommunications V Prodigy Communications

Background and description

British Telecommunications (BT) feels that Prodigy infringes the Sargent patent through it’s business activities as an internet service provider (ISP). The Sargent patent involves a system with multiples users located at remote terminals accessing data that is stored on a central computer. The unique thing about the Sargent patent is the way that blocks of information are stored and retrieved. The Sargent patent protects blocks of data that contain two parts in the following way. The first part contains text and graphical data for display and the second part contains the addresses of the other blocks of information that are related to the page that is currently being displayed. British Telecommunications claims that Prodigy does this by providing access to information in a way that infringes the Sargent patent. British Telecommunications also accuses Prodigy of contributory infringement. British Telecommunications says that they make this claim because Prodigy encourages the infringement of the Sargent patent because they provide the necessary software and encourage their subscribers to access pages on web servers that are maintained by third parties. British Telecommunications also makes the argument that summary judgment should be denied because even if Prodigy’s servers don’t infringe the Sargent patent, they do infringe the ‘622 patent by making and using infringing remote terminals.

Court’s Analysis

The court found that since the internet doesn’t infringe the Sargent patent, Prodigy can’t be liable for contributory infringement or active inducement because it provided its users with internet access. So, the court says that that they don’t need to address British Telecommunications arguments that deal with contributory infringement and active inducement. The court also found that Prodigy’s system doesn’t infringe the ‘662 patent.


The court finds that there are no disputed issues of material fact in this case. The court found that as a matter of law, no jury could find that Prodigy infringes the Sargent patent directly or contributarily. Prodigy’s motion for summary judgment was granted and the Clerk was directed to close the file.

Case Location

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