Michael Feldstein and Blackboard

George Siemens, elearnspace, Aug 17, 2006
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Alfred Essa raises concerns that IMS might have now that one of its partners has played the patent card. The next IMS meeting, to be hosted by Blackboard in September, should be a pretty interesting session. Essa wonders what a question and answer with Blackboard would look like.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) send an email advising "the patents are afforded no 'presumption of validity'" and that, as Michael Feldstein summarizes, "there is no patent in Europe yet, it will take a long time for there to be a patent in Europe, and in the event that there is a patent in Europe, the EUÃf¢xTMs patent law is much friendlier to challenging patents than current U.S. law."

Michael Feldstein also explains why Desire2Learn CEO John Baker is our hero, explaining that "Desire2Learn is doing an enormous public service." Of course, others have observed, D2L may have no choice - once you cave on something like this, you can count on the gravy train leading to your doorstep.

George Siemens agrees, Michael Feldstein will not be winning an "educator of the year" award from Blackboard. He adds, "Personally, I'm not convinced D2L is doing it out of altruistic reasons...but it does appear to be a side effect of their willingness to challenge Blackboard's boorish behaviour (that is officially my first use of "boorish" in five years fo blogging :))."

"It's almost too easy nowadays to make the case that government frequently makes bonehead plays," observes Lanny Arvan. "What about the private sector? And specifically, what about the Blackboard Patent and the D2L suit.... IÃf¢xTMm not confident either way whether what weÃf¢xTMre seeing now is rational or a bonehead play by Blackboard. But I do know enough about economics to understand that goodwill is a non-tangible asset with real market value and it is not hard for me to see that under certain assumptions that Blackboard could take a hit in the goodwill department beyond what it ever might recover in royalties and deterrence benefits."

Via Liberal Education Today, we read that "A website urging people to boycott Blackboard has gathered hundreds of signatures in a petition drive."

Confused of Calcutta writes, "I am not sure whether open source information has been used as a defence before, but this becomes a case to watch and to learn from."

Project Open Source | Open Access writes, "BlackBoard's American patent is curious in that it purports to patent any kind of course-based multi-user system, particularly common features such as assigning roles and permissions to provide users with various levels of access. These are features which have been generalized in all kinds of software, and have a long history in educational technologies."
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