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Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
e-learning, patents

blackboard, desire2learn

Blackboard Wins Lawsuit Over E-Learning Patent

from the not-how-the-system-was-supposed-to-work dept

Blackboard is a distance learning company that claims to hold patents on the concept of distance learning. It wasted little time in suing competitors even as a close examination of the patent showed that it wasn't just obvious, but there was plenty of prior art on it. A formal challenge to the patent was launched, and the Patent Office agreed to review the patent over a year ago, but has yet to do much on that re-exam. However, while everyone waits for that, the lawsuit went forward, and a jury has decided that the patent is valid and the company Desire2Learn owes Blackboard $3 million (found via Troll Tracker). There will be an appeal of course, and maybe one of these days someone at the Patent Office will realize that it issued a patent on something rather obvious with a ton of prior art.

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  1. identicon
    Eric the Grey, 25 Feb 2008 @ 11:52pm


    And until, or unless the patent office reverses the Blackboard patent, we're stuck with one of the crappiest online learning software I've ever had the misfortune to use.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2008 @ 12:17am


    ITT Technical Institute does this sort of thing (distance learning) and they don't do it via Blackboard. They're a for profit trade school so if they had a choice between patent royalties and not doing it, they'd probably not do it.

    So go Blackboard! Way to promote education: sue others into the ground to prevent them from doing it online.

    PS, in 2002 I took one of my classes online during the summer at Clark Community College so I wouldn't have to take it in High School. But that's probably not prior art to their patent, or grounds for it being obvious. I mean it's only what just about every school in the Northwest offers due to weather and distance conditions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Maram, 26 Feb 2008 @ 3:46am

    Pre-Web Concept

    Distance Learning is a patent concept?! give us a break..this concept exists even in the pre-web age through open universities.
    Blackboard is just trying to fight back a disparate case after seeing how free and open sources e-Learning software and other decent commercial companies has developed great systems and are away ahead of blackboard!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    TriZz, 26 Feb 2008 @ 5:13am

    Re: ITT

    I'm not sure how the patent laws work in that regard, but I would think that if a college created their own distance-learning web applications, and were not trying to license it out to others...then it'd be ok.

    I mean, if I was to build my own iPhone (I know, I'm reaching here) and infringe the patents of Apple, I can't imagine them even remotely caring that I made my long as it was for my own use and not to be licensed or sold (especially as an "iPhone" - which I guess is a trademark issue).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    JustMatt, 26 Feb 2008 @ 5:31am

    As I understand it

    This is just multiple roles in an OU, something that most corporations and colleges have been doing for 10 or 15 years in AD, LDAP, etc.

    I fail to see how this is patentable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    known coward, 26 Feb 2008 @ 5:58am

    we were doing distance learning applications in 19

    using MPG over ATM video and audio and ethernet over ATM for the PC connectivity.

    Was there something that was particular to the case that made something in the technique patentable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Cynic, 26 Feb 2008 @ 6:18am

    Sounds like working in the patent office is a pretty easy job...not compelled to do anything you don't feel like, and there's no deadlines, and no requirement to have your decisions make any sense. I guess I'm just jealous I don't have a comfy civil service job with that kind of description? Or is it that I feel sad about the state the U.S. is slipping into? Or is it both?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Overcast, 26 Feb 2008 @ 6:34am

    Oh come on. There have been correspondence courses for many, many years. How could this patent possibly be 'valid'?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Eliot, 26 Feb 2008 @ 6:36am

    Sad day indeed...

    I imagine they are suggesting that the way they allow one login with multiple courses and separate roles per course is what they have patented.

    When I was in college, I was working with the Ed Tech group and we sampled Desire2Learn ... by far a superior product.

    They listened to what we wanted, their programmers were adding features all the time. It was faster, smoother, and prettier than Blackboard. It's really a shame.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Andrew, 26 Feb 2008 @ 6:51am

    So Blackboard is like SCO?

    Repeated. We all know what happened to SCO when they tried trivial lawsuits on invalid patents.

    There is no way that having role based access control is patentable - otherwise pretty much everyone in the software industry would be out of business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Annia, 6 Nov 2009 @ 8:49am

    In the light of the changes in the way that patent information is delivered, the way that learning about patent information and related topics occurs is also changing. recently developed electronic and distance learning materials on patent information products and related topics to complement the existing classroom training program are being introduced. A user survey on their training needs confirmed that these developments are in-line with the users’ interests. I am associated with an organization which deals with the distance learning and promotes online education. If this idea is more furnished and is able to be customized according to the needs, I believe it will greatly help in the field of distance learning or online education.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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