Blackboard E-Learning Patent

A little bird wrote:

You may or may not have heard that the major Learning Management System player, Blackboard (75% share), has recently gotten offensive with a patent claim. They’re suing another player in our space, Desire2Learn. It’s caused a massive uproar amongst the elearning community, as there are huge and obvious issues of prior art that appear to have been completely ignored by the patent office. The open source community (Moodle, and also Sakai) and other commercial players are collaborating using wikipedia to gather prior art history. It’s lit the wires unlike any topic I’ve seen in recent memory. There’s some interesting backlash on boycottblackboard.org.

See also the Wikipedia entry offering a plain language translation of the patent. It’s a great example of someone using clear and ordinary language to illustrate just how far patent filings have come from their original intent of instructing people about how a purported invention works, and how far they go to obscure by legal language the appropriate prior art.

I also find it interesting that Wikipedia is being used as a venue for this activism. It says something important about the role that Wikipedia is beginning to play as a canonical source for information about important topics.

A few more relevant links:

1. A No Edu Patents website has sprung up in the wake of this.

2. Michael Feldstein is a prodigious blogger in the elearning industry. Feldstein’s blog, e-Literate has the full history and lots of links to other relevant information.

3. The online petition against Blackboard’s patent, with several of their customers piping in.

4. The Moodle Community wiki about the patent and what it means, with postings by Moodle founder Martin Dougimas.

(O’Reilly publishes a book on Moodle, Using Moodle.)