As expected, Blackboard has taken Desire2Learn back to court, claiming that 8.3 still infringes and charging them with contempt. Interestingly, the news of this showed up simultaneously in Inside Higher Education, THE Journal, and The Chronicle. It looks like Blackboard may have something to say that they want to make sure we all hear.
What could it be?
Here’s one candidate, said by Matt Small to Inside Higher Education:
“We have all along said and continue to say, and mean, that we don’t want to do anything that will disrupt D2L’s clients, so if D2L should be held in contempt or sanctioned or if it should go bankrupt … we would hate to see a D2L school inadvertently shut down unexpectedly because D2L does not survive, and we’re committed to working with the schools to help them find a non-infringing alternative that is on their budget and on their time frame and of their choice,” he said. [emphasis added]
How sweet. In a Tony Soprano sort of way, that is.
Thanks to Michael Feldstein for keeping us up-to-date on this topic. There are still many unanswered questions about this patent dispute. It’s not clear to the public what Bb is actually claiming in its ‘Alcorn’ patent. The patent language is very convoluted. Most features and options in LMS’s seem rather intuitive or obvious from an academic point of view. What did Bb actually invent that was so novel? If Bb eventually succeeds in suppressing D2L, who will they go after next? Angel? rSmart? Will we have any options other than Bb, Moodle and Sakai? The Bb patent pledge sounds good but the issue about “bundling” sounds like a big loophole. What if a for-profit vendor hosts an open source LMS (Moodle, Sakai) but provides additional related services on the same servers? Is that bundling? Isn’t 90+% of the market share enough for Bb to survive? The goal of patents is to stimulate innovation not suppress competition. Wouldn’t it be better to ‘win’ customers by a higher quality product? How does a monopoly stimulate innovation and serve the public? I understand the value of patents but shouldn’t they be reserved for things that are truly novel? Something that would make you go ‘Wow, I would never have thought of that’. How can a jury of lay persons in an East Texas courtroom possibly understand the intricacies of this case unless they have had years of experience using some of the LMS products in an educational setting? Or is it possible to understand patents without knowing anything about the product(s) involved?