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
    AJ, 27 Jan 2007 @ 11:53am

    Patent commentary

    I am an attorney, and inventor (2 issued, more pending (www.getmomobile.com). "Obviousness" has a legal meaning, see 35 USC 103(a), different than what one might ordinarily think. So when you use a term "extremely obvious", it shows you have no knowledge in this area (which is not a put down, as most people don't and wouldn't have a reason to know what it means. Further, even attorney's who practice in this field can disagree on whether or not something is "obvious" in its legal sense).
    As far as your invention versus innovation, etc., I agree with you on some points -but you seem to be a bit dismissive of the effort and financial risk (i.e. pharma) taken by the inventor in seeking a patent in the first place (especially if the inventor is an individual backing the process with his/her own money).
    The persons and companies who "innovate", which I take to mean commercialize the IP, also have work to do, take on risk, and require a different skill set. But without the inventor, and the patent system to provide a financial incentive -there would not be as many things to "innovate" with.
    One of the key points an innovative company must consider strategically is a "barrier to entry", this is where a patent becomes very important.
    Like I said - I enjoy your site.
    Thanks -

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