Blackboard patent – community update.


The blackboard patent fun continues. The first email i sent to the company to invite them to our meeting this weekend bounced back at me. I’ll continue to try and contact them. I was reading through ‘an explanation of the CMS patent‘ on their website (notice the use of the term CMS (course management system) as the one used by moodle) Anyone who is not in the US and thinks this is a US only issue might want to reconsider. The following from the Blackboard website.

  • What other countries are covered by the patent?
    Patents corresponding to the U.S. patent have been issued or are pending all over the world including in the European Union, China, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand India, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, Hong Kong and Brazil.

There are also many people in the community who have suggested that the ‘bad press’ that will come out of this will be bad for Blackboard inc. I would also ask that they reconsider their position. If someone has managed to secure a monopoly ‘bad press’ is not very relevant. Those of us who are familiar with the University CMS/LMS/VLE decision making process know that a secure solution is a VERY important part of that decision making process. If we can’t guarantee that it will be legal to use a given product, how can we guarantee the longevity of that product. Blackboard wins either way… all they need is the suggestion that they might sue…
The third thing that I am reading is that people are suggesting that this is an opportunity to move beyond the CMS into a brave new world of online education. It’s important to remember that the ‘series of tubes’ argument coupled with DOPA would make that difficult for many educators. However, i must agree, it is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for many agendas. It’s also an opportunity for those who have been resistant to the change to dig their heels in and point to this situation as a reason to stick to old ways of teaching.

Following my blog post yesterday… we’re going to cover three things on Sunday over at edtechtalk (link above). What is going on? What can we do to stop it? What do we do if we can’t stop it?

We’d like to finish that show with a community response statement.

Author: dave

I run this site... among other things.

5 thoughts on “Blackboard patent – community update.”

  1. I agree Dave – I think ‘bad press’ is not much of a deterrent when  state sanctioned usurpation of the CMS/LMS market it at stake. I will reserve final judgment until we’ve heard more about the legal and substantive issues involved, but from what I’ve read so far, this patent seems quite illegitimate.

    As negatively as this effects my opinion of Blackboard, I am even more disturbed by the actions of the Patent Office.  Aside from the dubious specific claims these ‘thought leaders’ at Blackboard make, how can something as broad as “Internet-based education support system” even be considered for a patent.  I really think the entire patent system needs to be rethought.  There an interesting discussion with Beth Noceck of such possibilities here on IT Conversations

    I fear that this specific case is only the latest in a growing trend of traditional commercial forces using patents and aggressive legal threats to reduce competition they face from open source products and the internet fueled global movement toward collaboration.  Since the societal benefits of innovation and openness seem so apparent, I’d like to think that global collaboration will eventually triumph, but it certainly won’t happen without a coherent, sustained, multi-faceted response to these detrimental actions of  some businesses and some governments. 
      For me, this case seems like an excellent place to start building that response.  My greatest source of hope in this particular case is the  Post Grant Review of Patent Claims that provides one year (after patent issue) for 3rd parties to raise some kind of objection.  Would love to more about this possibility from those who are more  knowledgeable about the technical and legal issues involved.  Aside from that, I think our community response should make it very clear to Blackboard and the patent office how people in our community, who represent a variety of edtech related roles, feel about this decision and its potential effect on the world of online learning.

  2. (I have commented similarly on Stephen’s Web and Seb Schmoller’s Fortnightly Mailing) Blackboard’s major shareholders include Federated Investors, the Carlyle Group and Oak Hill Capital Partners. These firms are very close to the Whitehouse and are among the biggest corporate and individual donors to the Republican Party and the Bush family. Although I usually favour cock-up to conspiracy, the Bb patent skirmish is, maybe, an important little battle in the hearts-and-minds war. Read here: And, that “rural East Texas Jurisdiction” in which the suit against D2L was filed is, possibly, part of the game.

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