Last year, there was a lot of talk when Blackboard Inc. started threatening other organizations involved in e-learning excessively broad and extremely obvious patent on the concept of e-learning. In November, a group put forth a formal challenge to the patent, and it appears that the Patent Office has finally realized that it deserves a second look. They've agreed to review the patent in question. Of course, as with other such reviews, it will likely take quite some time, as it involves a very lengthy process including appeals. In the meantime, however, the patent itself (from a legal standpoint) is considered valid, and any lawsuits Blackboard is involved in continue on the basis that the patent is completely valid. While it's nice that the Patent Office has actually agreed to review the patent, it highlights one of the problems with the current system, where the Patent Office uses a "when in doubt, approve" standard. Whoever holds that patent can then cause all sorts of problems until the USPTO finally gets around to reviewing it. It slows down all sorts of innovation in that time, assuming the patent is eventually found invalid. This is the exactly opposite to how the patent system is supposed to work. It's supposed to be encouraging innovation, not slowing it down through its own mistakes.
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