There's been a lot of buzz in the last few weeks over the patent awarded to the provider of online courseware, Blackboard. The patent seems ridiculously broad and basically seems to cover the entire concept of e-learning software. So, of course, what else would Blackboard do, but sue another company for patent infringement? Blackboard claims that people are overreacting, but as people go through and breakdown the specific claims in the patent, it just looks worse and worse. There is simply no reason that this patent ever should have been issued. There is nothing in the patent that is remotely new or non-obvious -- and it's difficult to make even the slightest case that the issuance of this patent has any societal benefit. Instead, you could make a pretty good case that it's done plenty of harm. In the meantime, plenty of people are saying that the blame should fall entirely on the patent system and not Blackboard, but they are defending their decision to sue another provider. Hopefully, the growing backlash (especially from academia) against Blackboard for resorting to a lawsuit means that more universities decide to go with other software providers.
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