With a court date set for next week in New York, BT will press ahead with its patent-infringement lawsuit against Prodigy, even if the lawsuit brings BT bad publicity, BT chairman Christopher Bland said yesterday.

In the lawsuit, BT alleges that it owns the patent to hyperlink technology and that the US-based ISP is using the technology without authorisation.

But BT, though now wishing to make itself look good after years of mud-slinging about broadband pricing and metered tariffs, doesn't think its reputation in America will affect it here.

'The very idea of suing is an American one, so it shouldn't damage the company from a marketing point of view', Bland said at a news conference announcing BT's third quarter financial results.

"If the court decides in our favour, that would be nice; if the court doesn't decide in our favour, that would not be nice. But the idea of dropping the suit to increase the feelgood factor with ISPs in the US would be a bizarre notion for us here in the UK," Bland said.

BT contends that in 2000 it discovered that it holds US patent 4,873,662 for the invention of hyperlink technology used to link web pages and on 13 December 2000 it filed suit in federal court in White Plains, New York.

Early in 2000, after discovering in a routine check that it owned the patent for the hyperlink, BT wrote to 17 US internet service providers, including Prodigy, asking them to pay for the privilege of using the technology through licensing agreements.