BlackBoard goes Metallica

Thu Aug 3 15:21:32 2006 EDT (-0400 GMT)

On Monday I found out that BlackBoard (Bb) had been issued a patent on eLearning. Bb recently bought WebCt inc. which makes the learning management system that consumes most of my days at work. I was dismissive of it until I learnt about the subsequent lawsuits against Desire2Learn (D2L) the day afterwards.

As far as I’m concerned it’s a problem with the US software patent system more than anything else. The reason I initially dismissed it was I assumed it was akin to Amazon’s “single click purchase” patent and the collection Microsoft and Apple hold against each other in a kind of cold war — then Bb sued D2L (see Slashdot).

Now I’m a little more concerned and hope that the patent gets invalidated, take a look at these gems (from US Patent office):

9. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise an asynchronous communication file.

10. The system of claim 2 wherein the course files comprise a synchronous communication file.

19. The system of claim 18 wherein the grade is made available to the student user.

I’m pretty sure that there’s a lot of prior art on these points, some might even pre-date Matthew Pittinsky’s (Bb chairman of the board and co-founder) birth! I’m not sure if Bb can win on a few points of a patent that is otherwise invalid.

I left the international WebCT Conference in Chicago with a relativly good feeling about Bb and what their future plans were, even if I’ve never been a big fan of CEO Michael Chasen — that feeling is rapidly going away and according to the academic technology related list serves, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

To use a Chasen-ism, BlackBoard is becoming a thought leader in business bullying.

One Response to “BlackBoard goes Metallica”

  1. iMatt :: The Blog of Matt Clare » Blog Archive » More BlackBoard v. Sakai News Says:

    […] In previous posts I commented on what I thought of the patent (BlackBoard goes Metallica) and on the uproar that ensued when Matthew Smalls et al. from Bb agreed to be on a panel at Sakai’s (one of the main two open source alternatives) Atlanta conference in December (Bb v. SFLC, Sakai, Moglen, rational thinkers, et al.,Follow up with the Bb team). […]