Monday, March 03, 2008

Blackboard wins e-learning patent suit

Since 2006 I have been following with interest the patent infringement case of Blackboard v Desire2Learn. Blackboard is a provider of educational software and virtual learning environments, which owns U.S. Patent 6,988,138 protecting "Internet-based education support system and methods". In 2006 they sued VLE provider Desire2Learn for infringement of aforementioned monopoly right. No points for guessing in which jurisdiction was the complaint filed, let's just say that it is a large state that borders Mexico, and it is not California. The case made it to trial, and the jury awarded Blackboard $2.5 million USD (about 44 million WoW gold) for lost profits and $630,000 USD in royalties.

At this point I should probably offer a rant about the evils of software patents, but I think that the facts speak for themselves. A company is using its patent in order to eliminate competitors from the market. Surely, this is not what the patent system is all about, is it?


Anonymous said...

Damned right the facts speak for themselves, is there no justice anymore.

Anonymous said...

Blackboard has a right to protect their patent. The USPTO issues patents to people that disclose their invention and the understanding for doing so is that you have the exclusive right to sell that product in the US for a predetermined amount of time. I'm sure Blackboard would not have problem with this other competitor reselling their services or paying a royalty to continue selling their own.

Andres Guadamuz said...

Blackboard has indeed a right to protect their patent.

However, the whole point is that this is a patent that should not exist. Blackboard is taking advantage of the broken patent system in the United States, a patent that anywhere else should not have been awarded.

Blackboard's disclosure of their invention is useless because this is not an invention whatsoever. VLE's pre-date their patent application by several years. There was already VLE software on sale when they filed their application. Not only that, there was ample academic discussion on VLE methods (just Google Scholar "virtual learning environments").