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02.13.08

Blackboard Gets Aggressive, Junk Patent Dropping Like Flies in Court

Posted in Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 7:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Groklaw calls Blackboard “Novell II”

In our past writings that covered Blackboard [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] it could clearly be seen what an aggressive monopolist that company truly is. Unsurprisingly, the company is a chum of Microsoft (see citations below, including “Microsoft has given Blackboard $10-million in venture capital”).

Blackboard protects the educational territory, which it perceives as its own, using all means at hand, including the most ridiculous of software patents. It is not a defensive arsenal, mind you. Here we are talking about a company that is at this very moment attacking in the courts. At the expense of the victim’s (and the juridical system’s) time, Blackboard shows what junk patents it has possessed all along.

Interestingly, Desire2Learn is blogging about the trial. Desire2Learn has already invalidated 35 out of the 44 claims of the ’138 patent. I love how Desire2Learn refers to the inventors in quotes – “inventors.” From Desire2Learn’s blog, we learn that the Software Freedom Law Center filed an ex parte reexamination request, and Desire2Learn filed an inter partes reexamination request. Both were granted, and are continuing in parallel to the trial. We also learn that Judge Clark did not rule on any pending summary judgment motions, and decided to hold them for trial.

More about Blackboard (older articles and press coverage):

Blackboard Patent Goes to Trial

The Blackboard patent infringement case against Desire2Learn goes to trial on February 11, 2008 in Lufkin, Texas. The trial is expected to last two weeks. Both sides will have no more than 18 hours to present their case.

[...]

By all accounts Blackboard’s patent is a stupid one and never should have been issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Drop Patent, Educause Urges Blackboard

The leaders of higher education’s main technology association have written a powerfully worded letter urging Blackboard to relinquish the rights it gained under a controversial patent of online learning technologies in the public domain and to drop a patent infringement lawsuit it filed in August against a Canadian competitor, Desire2Learn.

FAQ on Understanding the Blackboard Patent

For example, claim 1 in the Blackboard patent describes a course based-system with user computers where each user is “capable of having predefined characteristics indicative of multiple predetermined roles in the system.” Consequently, a system must provide for “multiple predetermined roles” for each user according to the claim and, likewise, every other element (or its equivalent) of claim 1 must be embodied in the system in question for claim 1 to be infringed. This detailed element-by-element analysis is necessary to evaluate the scope of the patent. Be wary of any analysis of this or any other patent which does not involve an element-by-element discussion of the claims as each element is a limitation on the scope of a patent.

The Blackboard Patent Pledge – Novell II?

Blackboard hereby commits not to assert any of the U.S. patents listed below, as well as all counterparts of these patents issued in other countries, against the development, use or distribution of Open Source Software or Home-Grown Systems to the extent that such Open Source Software and Home-Grown Systems are not Bundled with proprietary software.

[...]

Microsoft has given Blackboard $10-million in venture capital and has stationed Microsoft employees within Blackboard to help with product development….”Learning could take over from e-commerce as the number-one use of the Internet,” says Mr. East, of Microsoft. That is enticing to Microsoft, says Mr. DeGroot of Directions on Microsoft. “What Microsoft wants is to own the educational-software market,” he says.

Blackboard Problems Leave Vista on Double-Secret Probation

On college campuses, Microsoft’s Vista operating system may be in danger of failing courses that use Blackboard, a key software program for communication between teachers and students.

Blackboard remains one of the notable companies out there to be named and shamed for abusive attempts to protect its dominance.

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