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What do you think of the Blackboard Patent?


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timtak
Subject: What do you think of the Blackboard Patent?Quote this post in your reply
As you may know Blackboard has started to attempt to enforce a patent on Learning (Content) Management Systems or Virtual Learning Environments. It has said that it will not go after non-commercial systems but there are no guarantees.

This is a page dedicated to the history of VLE's partly to demostrate prior art.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_virtual_learning_environments

Your thoughts?
Posted: 2006-08-05 08:27:02
greg

Avatar for greg
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
First I think, like many others, that the patent should never have been issued in the first place. It seems rather obvious that prior art existed long before the patent was submitted. That said though, it is still going to take time, and money to correct the mistake made by the US patent office. And for the commercial systems like Desire2Learn, they'll be the one's who end up having to pay for the mistake.

The patent focuses first on a file based system. Most current open source LMSs are db-based, which is sufficiently different from BB and its file driven features that there should be no difficulty demonstrating their difference from those aspect of BB. Some parts of the patent, like the idea of roles may be more problematic (claim #1). The idea of student, instructor and administrator roles is present in virtually all LMSs. It's difficult to say what affect the idea of roles will have. Likewise the idea of logging into a course (claim #24) may also be problematic. Both "ideas" however seem natural to the process of learning online, thus should not be patentable because of their ubiquitous nature. There are other such claims over ideas that one would think belong to no one

Other things like file sharing, and assignment creation and submission, likewise are too broadly used across may types of systems to be patentable. File managers, Wikis, and content management systems for example, used in an elearning context, would be subject to violation of the patent.

Parts of the patent also focuses on the use of language. So for example they have patented the use of the word "Communication" as language for the link that opens their file based communication tools (i.e. forum, chat). Should it be possible to patent the link text such as this, or such as "Assignments", or "Announcements" (claim #27), not to mention the rest of the language they have laid claim to.

It is a shame that Desire2Learn has to take on the expense of challenging this patent, being the first to be sued. They should not have to do this alone, since their success in challenging the patent is extremely important for all LMS developers, setting a precedent that will affect all systems. The whole story that leads up to the issuance of the patent, and the suit that immediately followed, sounds like a well planned attempt to quietly eliminate potential challengers. It seems that BB bought out the bulk of systems that could challenge the patent, and from what I hear, their attempts to buy out Desire2Learn failed. I'll leave you to deduce the intention.

The statements issued by BB executive repeatedly includes the phrase "at this time," which, in the quote below, seems to indicate that they need to eliminate the commercial LMS vendors before they go on to the open source systems, and potentially the clientele that use other systems. The open source developers should be wary of such statements, particularly those of the major OS system(s), who may be targeted before the patent is quashed. Low key may be a better approach for the time being, rather than attracting attention.

""Michael L. Chasen, president and chief executive officer of Blackboard, said the company had no plans at this time to sue colleges that may infringe on Blackboard's patent. "Our focus is on the commercial providers," he said. "We are certainly not interested in going after any of our clients.""

From:
pdc.cvc.edu/common/newsdetail.asp?idx=4473

And then there is the whole idea of monopolizing the LMS industry. That can't happen. Right?

I am still analysing the text of the patent, but after a first scan of the claims being made by BB, I'd suggest developers and users of open source systems should not have much to worry about for the time being, but should pay close attention to the Desire2Learn case.

The text of the Blackboard Patent
www.atutor.ca/atutor/files/bb/blackboard_patent.html

One thing I think all this uproar has doing, is bringing together the LMS industry both commercial and open source. And it also seems to be opening the eyes of users of the BB system. Even users of the system seem to agree that they do not want to be forced to use BB. Attempting to limit choice appears to have hit a nerve among some BB users. BB's patent may just backfire on them...
Posted: 2006-08-05 11:29:08
greg

Avatar for greg
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
The Blackboard patent is making its way into the mainstream: Here's an article from Associated Press

www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techpolicy/2006-08-27-blackboard-dispute_x.htm?POE=TECISVA
Posted: 2006-08-29 15:55:57
timtak
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
Dear Greg
I am sorry that I did not respond to your initial thoughtful response and for the link to the article above. I will be interested to recieve similar in the future.
Thanks
Tim
Posted: 2006-08-30 02:19:10
vegard

Avatar for vegard
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
well, let's hope it backfires. I regard this mostly as yet another proof that the USPTO is broken.

Two related patents of recent times are the Eolas patent [1] (later nullified) and the Balthaser patent [2], both claiming similar ownership to generic ideas and processes.

Two informative blogs about the BB patent are Michael Feldstein's at mfeldstein.com/ and Stephen Downes' at www.downes.ca/blackboard_patent.htm

1: www.theregister.co.uk/2004/03/05/eolas_web_patent_nullified/

2: www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=180206472&cid=RSSfeed_IWK_News
Posted: 2006-09-01 06:10:37
gundee
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
The salvation _may_ just be Sakai - Blackboard would be very foolhardy to take on Sakai on w/all the heavyweights behind that project, e.g. Ivy League Universities, Hewlett Foundation, Carnegie, etc. AT&T tried to take on UC over BSD code and got a LOT more than they bargained for. Now imagine adding dozens of other schools, and a few major foundations to the mix and Blackboard is going to have a very formidable opponent. Trouble is that BB is partially owned by MS and there's no lack of legal resources there....
Posted: 2006-09-11 16:22:34
greg

Avatar for greg
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
An update, if you haven't heard already, two requests for reexamination of the Blackboard patent have been submitted to the US Patent office. One by the Software Freedom Law Centre and behalf of Open Source LMSs, including ATutor, Sakai, and moodle. The other from Desire2Learn.

So far the best resource/information can be found on the D2L site, at:

www.desire2learn.com/patent/files.html

A copy of the SFLC reexam request is also there.

or

type "atutor blackboard patent" into google
Posted: 2006-12-02 16:27:44
greg

Avatar for greg
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
A quick update: The US Patent office has accepted the re-exam request from SFLC and ordered the reexamination of the Blackboard patent.


www.softwarefreedom.org/news/20070125a.html
Posted: 2007-01-26 08:55:35
greg

Avatar for greg
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
ATutor's Offical Response to the Blackboard Pledge
-----------

While there is some merit to Blackboard's pledge, it still falls short, not protecting all those who provide services in support of open source systems. In particular, it fails to protect those who develop extensions or customizations for open source systems who might also offer other support services, and it fails to protect internet service providers who might offer any of these open source systems along with proprietary software as part of an applications package for their clients.

The pledge does not protect other currently available open source systems not in their list of protected initiatives. Allowing Blackboard to specify which open source systems can be legally used would essentially give them a level of control over public domain and open source learning systems software.

The restrictions in the pledge regarding bundling of open source software with other proprietary software are not compatible with the GNU General Public License (GPL), under which most open source learning management systems are made freely available to the public. Developers of proprietary software are free to aggregate open source software with their own for redistribution under the terms of the GPL license. Blackboards pledge does nothing to prevent use of the patent to override this otherwise legal method of distribution and leaves both the open source developer and the proprietary company open to the risk of litigation.

Similarly, should an open source developer create proprietary software of their own, they could not distribute their own open source software along with it.

All that said however, the patent should not have been issued in the first place, given the evidence of prior art which includes all features Blackboard is claiming ownership over. We still believe the patent should be revoked, and thus the pledge would be rendered irrelevant.

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Posted: 2007-02-01 15:53:30
JanetKellman
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
In the news smile
"The next step in the Blackboard Patent lawsuit has been taken, with Blackboard filing a document describing what it is they think the patent covers and Desire2Learn filing a response to that document. The thrust of D2L's response is that "Blackboard has acknowledged that the small innovation it contends the 138 Patent added to the field relates solely to the concept of using 'multiple predetermined user roles' to provide security to the systems" and cites statements from Blackboard to that effect. Blackboard, meanwhile, focuses on the 'roles' aspect of the LMS, but attempts to construe that as widely as possible. It is also worth noting that D2L cites the Wikipedia History of VLEs page in its response."

[url=http://mfeldstein.com/blackboard-and-d2l-markman-filings-are-up/]Michael Feldstein[/url]

Janet Kellman, [url=http://rbytes.net/software/]software reviews[/url] manager
Posted: 2007-07-10 15:54:40
greg

Avatar for greg
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
There's some promising news coming from D2L. Apparently a judge has ruled 35 of the claims in their patent as invalid.

coppola.rsmart.com/node/30
mfeldstein.com/first-35-claims-of-blackboards-patent-ruled-invalid/
www.desire2learn.com/patentinfo/
Posted: 2007-08-10 12:26:17
ally0512405
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
If you are asking for help, provide lots of detail so problems can be reproduced.

Things to describe:
operating system -
version of ATutor -
versions of php -
version of mysq l -
webserver & version -
copies of error messages -
changes to default settings -
web browser being used -
and anything else relevant -
Posted: 2007-09-12 07:57:05
greg

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Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
The latest on the Blackboard/D2L case

www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/?i=51643;_hbguid=0cb27fb3-54c9-4311-849d-caeba4aca0a1
Posted: 2008-01-30 11:37:10
greg

Avatar for greg
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
The showdown between BB and Desire2Learn begins:
chronicle.com/free/2008/02/1630n.htm
Posted: 2008-02-13 13:17:55
greg

Avatar for greg
Subject: Re: What do you think of the Blackboard PatenQuote this post in your reply
I'm sorry to hear this, but BB has taken the first round with D2L. But this certainly isn't the end.

news.therecord.com/News/CanadaWorld/article/313293
Posted: 2008-02-25 14:45:35
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