Patent Office Realizes Broad Patent On E-Learning Might Need A Second Look

from the gee,-you-think? dept

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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  1. identicon
    Jon, 28 Jan 2007 @ 8:23pm

    Legal faults

    This same fault in the patent system exists in every other area of IP as well as much of the rest of law. Copyright is a good example. Sony hypothetically owns the copyright on a DVD movie I own. The copyright license states that I can not make a backup of the DVD. However, fair use says that I legally can. Acting under good faith in the law, I make a backup of the DVD, but Sony still files suit. At this point, I either go through a lengthy legal process only to have my side of the law upheld, or a get criminally and civilly penalized even though I was following the law as I best understood it.

    Same goes for these crazy patents. When a company encounters an obviously invalid patent, the company can either violate the patent hoping to win in court later, or wait through a lengthy patent challenge process.

    It's sad when people are afraid to do something completely legal because they might be drug through courts and may possibly lose on a technicality. People should be able to abide by law with a reasonable understanding of the law without such fear.

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