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August 27, 2006

Blackboard Rattles

The Washington Post reports today "an angry backlash from the academic computing community" for Blackboard asserting its freshly minted 6,988,138 against Desire2Learn. The worry is, of course, the broad claims of '138. Not reported is whether the academic computing community has enrolled for anger management help.

According to Post, there is huge infringement potential.

About 90 percent of colleges use some kind of LMS, according to data from Eduventures, a Boston company that does research and consulting on online learning, and they are used in about 46 percent of classes. Blackboard has about 60 percent of the market for those systems, followed by eCollege and Desire2Learn with about 20 percent each, according to Eduventures.

The anger stems from fear -

The fear is that universities, afraid of being sued for patent infringement, would stop that mixing, matching and experimenting _ and that innovation would suffer.

This ignores the concept that patents are an expression of innovation, and that Blackboard is seeking licensing revenue for its expression.

Academia being pure, patents are a pollutant -

The patent is "is antithetical to the way that academia makes progress," said Michael Feldstein, assistant director of the State University of New York's online learning network and one of the bloggers who has criticized the company.

It's academic that Feldstein is not a patent owner, and is green with envy that he didn't think of it first. And bloggers - jeez, who reads that crap anyway?!

Of course, the backlash involves digging up prior art to invalidate the patent. In a lapse of reportage, the Post fails to point out the "sprawling" Wikipedia entry that the community is using to vent prior art, but it's one attached to the Wikipedia entry for Virtual learning environment, specifically, the history section.

Posted by Patent Hawk at August 27, 2006 5:12 PM | Litigation


What is the standard example always trotted out to demonstrate the importance of granting full patent rights to entities that do themselves NOT practice the invention? In other words, what represents the best case against the term "patent troll"?

Why, academics of course.

Are these people now going to trash patents because they may have to pay some minor royalties to use certain kinds of online course software?

Really, these people had better get their ideological, legal, and PR act together; this kind of loud, self-righteous complaining is about the dumbest thing they could possibly do.

They had better be careful what they're wishing for, I should think.

Posted by: Tom at August 28, 2006 8:55 AM