According to D2L’s patent blog, the judge in the patent case just ruled the first 35 of the 44 claims in Blackboard’s current patent invalid:
The more significant, immediate result is that the Court found the “Means for assigning a level of access to and control of each data file based on a user of the system’s predetermined role in a course,” a “means-plus-function” term, to be indefinite. See pages 16-17 of the Memorandum Opinion. Because that phrase is indefinite, all of Claim 1 is rendered invalid because of indefiniteness. Further, all dependent claims that rely on Claim 1 (in our case, Claims 2 through 35) are similarly invalid.
There’s more to the ruling, too. The Court agreed with D2L’s definitions of certain terms in the patent, which could impact the way the surviving pieces of the patent are litigated at trial. If you’ve been following the legal maneuverings closely, you may want to check out the whole post.
Note that this development is completely unrelated to either of the pending re-examinations or, apparently, to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the nature of “obviousness” in the patent law. It was something that came out of the Markman Hearing, which is the part of the trial in which the court determines literally what the patent means for the purposes of the trial. It sounds from this post as if the court may have found that the first claim doesn’t have a specific enough meaning to be patentable, and that the 34 claims that depend on that first claim therefore are also not patentable.
This appears to be a pretty significant victory for D2L.