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Blackboard Patent Invalidated By Appellate Court

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the mechanism-for-doing-stuff-described-herein dept.

Education 142

Arguendo writes "A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Blackboard Inc.'s patent on a learning management system is invalid in light of the inventors' own prior software product. We have previously discussed the patent and Blackboard's trial court victory against Desire2Learn. It's not completely over, but this is almost certainly the death knell for Blackboard's patent. If so inclined, you may read the appellate court's decision here (PDF) or on scribd."

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142 comments

Woot! (0)

lorenlal (164133) | about 5 years ago | (#28853269)

Well.. Actually... This will have little bearing on overall patent trolling and issues. But at least there's a court out there that's paying attention.

Re:Woot! (0)

furby076 (1461805) | about 5 years ago | (#28853979)

This does not qualify as patent trolling. Patent trolling is making/buying a patent that has no actual product behind it (or never making use of the product) and then hanging out hoping others would make a similar product and then sueing for profit. Blackberry has been using their product for years now and they are an industry leader in LMS technology.

Re:Woot! (2, Interesting)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 5 years ago | (#28856919)

This does not qualify as patent trolling. Patent trolling is making/buying a patent that has no actual product behind it (or never making use of the product) and then hanging out hoping others would make a similar product and then sueing for profit. Blackberry has been using their product for years now and they are an industry leader in LMS technology.

Blackboard's "patents" are all based on prior art. Blackboard is nothing more than a database driven web site, and adds nothing novel or non-obvious. Most of their features exist in your basic blog sites. They are as much patent trolls as Amazon was for 1-click shopping.

Re:Woot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28857777)

They are as much patent trolls as Amazon was for 1-click shopping.

Which is to say not at all...Applying for a patent on a trivial invention that you've made and are using in a product, and having it granted, may involve unethical behaviour/ignorance/fear/incompetence - sure it is not patent trolling though.

Only the first po5t gets the patent (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28853277)

Desire2pwn

Blackboard execs should all be killed (4, Interesting)

realmolo (574068) | about 5 years ago | (#28853339)

Along with the patent examiners, of course.

If you look at the patents that Blackboard has, they basically make it *impossible* to have any kind of "intranet" site at an educational institution. Everything (almost literally everything) that you would want to have/do on a school's intranet, Blackboard has a patent for.

It's fucking ridiculous, and if their patents are invalidated, everyone in the education industry will RUN AWAY from their product, which sucks.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (5, Interesting)

Admodieus (918728) | about 5 years ago | (#28853411)

I want to run away from their product even if the patents are not invalidated. They're all pieces of crap that rely heavily on Java applets and fail to support updates for browsers when they come out, like Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, etc. I remember two years ago, there was a period of time where they told users not to upgrade to Firefox 2 or IE7 because they didn't have support lined up for them yet.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (3, Insightful)

cvd6262 (180823) | about 5 years ago | (#28854631)

I want to run away from their product even if the patents are not invalidated.

Yeah, we did run away and for years my little college has been happily using a competitor's product... Until this last year when Bb bought them out.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28856067)

A brief explanation of that behavior, Admodieus:

I worked with Blackboard for awhile, although not directly for them, and this was mostly attributed to development flat-out refusing to even test compatibility with a beta product (Firefox 3 and IE8 come to mind from recent experience), since they didn't want to have to muck about with the code to get it to work, and then muck about with it even more when a given browser went from Beta to GA. As soon as any beta browser was made GA, development got to work on certifying compatibility.

This also brings up Blackboard's definitions of Certified Compatibility. If a browser isn't certified compatible, that doesn't actually mean that it won't work, it just means that development hasn't yet run it through its paces. It's a crap-shoot as to whether or not it'll work.

Note that I'm not defending their decisions (because frankly, I disagreed with development on a daily basis), just explaining their attitude.

Hope that clears up that muck.

P.S. IE8 support was broken due to hackish coding designed to work around issues caused by IE7 :)

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (2, Informative)

The Evil Couch (621105) | about 5 years ago | (#28856701)

I rather hate their stuff as well. Their Java applets tend to crash a few times a week for me. I'm glad when they do, because everything loads considerably faster afterwards. It seems like whatever they have as their failsafe system works far better than their Java implimentation.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (0)

fbjon (692006) | about 5 years ago | (#28853425)

Wait, so does Moodle have license issues with Blackboard?

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (4, Interesting)

edremy (36408) | about 5 years ago | (#28853463)

Everybody already is running away. Check out the market share numbers- BB is on a serious decline, with most small schools like the one I work for ditching them for almost anything else.

Sadly, we went for Angel, which has been bought out by BB so we need to do another switch. BB will be among the possible options we'll be putting out there for the committee, but given our previous miserable experience with them I'll be amazed if we pick it over either Moodle or Sakai.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28855769)

...and even when the institution (like mine) is still on the Blackboard tit, every department and member of staff is always on the lookout for alternatives. Last year we used Google Sites, this year we're using Drupal and Elgg (and maybe Moodle) all of which do VLE stuff better than BB.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1)

db32 (862117) | about 5 years ago | (#28855895)

I don't know anything about the backends, but I can say as a student Angel has been my favorite setup that I have had to deal with thus far. My least favorite was a homegrown thing described as a "clone" of BB and if the normal BB product is anything like it then it should deserve to die a horrible and painful death.

However, there have been plenty of good products ruined by shitty companies.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28856173)

Actually my school a bunch of the professors went in on their OWN moodle server without the acceptance of the staff. At the time we were running blackboard, not D2L and had serious issues with it. Having since taken a few classes that used d2l and actually did quizzes via them I just have to say: WTF. It's the most retarded system ever, plus I hear they can force you to install applets (IE only obviously!) to make sure you're not looking at other sites while taking a quiz. Which as someone else mentioned 'Is why you're just looking at sites on your second computer while cheating on your quiz/test on the first.) If professors care about cheating then WHY THE FSCK aren't they proctoring themselves? Same thing I've been seeing with turnitin.com A lot of teachers are using it as their primary method of plagarism control and barely glancing over people's papers to actually grade them. If you're so fucking lazy, why did you become a teacher in the first place? State wasn't hiring? (Sad part is I actually had a really horrible professor one year who had come straight from college to a professorship because they WEREN'T.)

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (3, Informative)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 5 years ago | (#28856739)

If you're seriously considering replacement options, I'm the designer and developer for another LMS that is AICC/SCORM compatible (single-SCO courses at this time) and includes registration and tracking for classroom-based courses in addition to the online stuff. Communication is pretty much one-way though, the students don't have a way to submit materials to instructors. The feature set is purely customer-driven, every feature the LMS has is there because someone asked for it. Anyway, I'm currently adding features to version 7 of the LMS, which I redesigned and rewrote from the previous versions to run on a PHP/MySQL platform and make use of the ExtJS framework for the interface (so it's heavy on Javascript). Our largest client installation has just over 70,000 total users and about 54,000 active students, with 350,000 training records representing 177,000 hours of tracked training. So, if you're in a position to make recommendations, you can find our website at tracorp.com. The website is being redesigned and focuses almost entirely on courseware production as opposed to the LMS software, but you can contact us through the site if you want to schedule an LMS demo.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (4, Funny)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 5 years ago | (#28856763)

Oh yeah: we're also a small company that has no affiliation at all to Blackboard.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1)

janwedekind (778872) | about 5 years ago | (#28853575)

I can recommend Eben Moglen's keynote and the discussion with Matthew Small (2006 Sakai conference).
http://confluence.sakaiproject.org/display/CONF06/Keynote+--+Eben+Moglen [sakaiproject.org]
http://confluence.sakaiproject.org/display/CONF06/Lunchtime+Discussion+with+Eben+Moglen+and+Matthew+Small [sakaiproject.org]

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (0)

furby076 (1461805) | about 5 years ago | (#28854015)

Well first, the whole "BB execs should all be killed" is a tad bit extreme. There are worse things in life then someone who has a complex patent.

Second Blackboard is a leading industry LMS provider - they are really good at what they do.

Third Blackboard has plenty of competition. If schools wanted to leave Blackboard they have plenty of choices.

BTW I spent the first part of my career working in the eLearning industry. The company I worked for had their own custom product that worked similar to blackberry (though they didn't target universities).

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (2, Funny)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 5 years ago | (#28854161)

Blackboard is a leading industry LMS provider - they are really good at what they do.

The above sentence contains two statements. One of these statements is true, and one is false. Please indicate which is which, and submit your answer.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1)

kyldere (723002) | about 5 years ago | (#28854189)

Odd... I spent the first part of my technical career working for a company that got bought out by BlackBaord.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28854547)

Speaking as someone who does this for a living...

Well first, the whole "BB execs should all be killed" is a tad bit extreme. There are worse things in life then someone who has a complex patent.

Well, killin's too good for them, but "complex patent"? The bulk of it covers the idea that when you log into the system you might have different roles in different courses- a student in one, a TA in another, etc. Hardly complex.

Second Blackboard is a leading industry LMS provider - they are really good at what they do.

I'm unclear what exactly they do well. Making a easy to use, stable and featureful LMS certainly isn't it. Suing people doesn't seem to be working well either. They do do a wonderful job of buying superior products (Prometheus, WebCT, Angel) and killing them while losing the customers on those products, so you might have something there.

Third Blackboard has plenty of competition. If schools wanted to leave Blackboard they have plenty of choices.

Really? I suppose that's why I had a nice chat with some DOJ lawyers recently since we are an Angel customer. We really don't have any commercial options- there's virtually no market left that BB can't either buy or sue into oblivion. D2L is holding out so far, but for how much longer given BB's deep pockets and willingness to open more and more suits? Sakai and Moodle are options, but if your business plan involves volunteer labor or grant money, I think you might not have much of a market.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (-1)

furby076 (1461805) | about 5 years ago | (#28854965)

Speaking as someone who does this for a living...

Interesting, speaking as someone who did this for a living (I no longer work in the eLearning industry) and as someone who has used (as a consumer and provider and developer) and modified LMS systems, actual learning content, etc I do say they have a solid product. It's easy to use (for students and professors), has virtually no downtime (obviously servers go down for w/e reasons but I am talking about issues caused by the software, which in my experience has been low). Is this the perfect software? No. Then again, there is no such thing as the perfect software. Find me software and there is someone who has a beef to pick with it.

Really? I suppose that's why I had a nice chat with some DOJ lawyers recently since we are an Angel customer. We really don't have any commercial options- there's virtually no market left that BB can't either buy or sue into oblivion. D2L is holding out so far, but for how much longer given BB's deep pockets and willingness to open more and more suits? Sakai and Moodle are options, but if your business plan involves volunteer labor or grant money, I think you might not have much of a market.

I don't know why you spoke with DOJ and as such cannot comment on it. Considering I have worked with Blackboard and other eLearning/LMS content providers I have never had any issues...this includes evaulating multiple vendors (including Blackboard) and telling the vendors (including Blackboard) that I am going with someone else. At no point did I get a letter/phone call/etc about a lawsuit, patent infringement, etc.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28855245)

Let's take your points in order

IIt's easy to use (for students and professors),

I've used it as a professor. Perhaps I've been spoiled by using actually half-decent systems like Angel and Moodle, but IMHO it's a steaming pile of bad UI. Why is the professor interface totally different from the student one, to start with the most obvious UI abortion?

has virtually no downtime

You really aren't very familiar with BB, are you? I'll direct you to the dcollins post at the bottom of the page where CUNY got to experience multiple failures of BB. This is *not* unusual- spend any amount of time talking to BB users and you'll get to hear stories of how it collapsed the week before finals and BB's legendarily awful tech support sat around doing nothing.

I don't know why you spoke with DOJ and as such cannot comment on it.

It's called an anti-trust investigation, triggered because BB has destroyed the commercial market in LMSes. Probably won't go anywhere, but we're not the only school that's been contacted.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (0)

furby076 (1461805) | about 5 years ago | (#28855483)

And right back at you (though this seems to be more of a we disagree based on our experiences). Though I find it interesting, you are a professor who has used it...while I was a student who used it, a developer who worked on similar products, an implementation specialist who has implemented this and other products. We have different experiences

I've used it as a professor. Perhaps I've been spoiled by using actually half-decent systems like Angel and Moodle, but IMHO it's a steaming pile of bad UI. Why is the professor interface totally different from the student one, to start with the most obvious UI abortion?

Lots of systems have differing UIs based on your login type. Nothing is inherently wrong with this. THe only real concern is - are both systems easy to use. I found BB student and professor interfaces are easy. YOu didn't...that is fine. I don't find Linux easy to use --- but I wouldn't call linux a "UI abortion"

You really aren't very familiar with BB, are you? I'll direct you to the dcollins post at the bottom of the page where CUNY got to experience multiple failures of BB. This is *not* unusual- spend any amount of time talking to BB users and you'll get to hear stories of how it collapsed the week before finals and BB's legendarily awful tech support sat around doing nothing.

Actually, I am quite familiar with it. Maybe your downtime was due to a poor server setup? A poor network setup? A poor computer setup? All of the above. Maybe it was implemented incorrectly? There are a lot of factors that would give you a poor user experience...that doesn't necessarily mean the software was crappy (though it could have also been the software itself).

It's called an anti-trust investigation, triggered because BB has destroyed the commercial market in LMSes. Probably won't go anywhere, but we're not the only school that's been contacted.

Interesting - off the top of my head I can list three LMS providers: SumTotal, SUN LMS (no longer in service, the company I used was the last company they had as a customer), SABA, skillsoft, RWD...oh wait that's more then three. Seems like a healthy market to me (btw I've worked on SumTotal, SUN, Saba, RWD, Blackboard, and another one briefly but I can't remember the name)

I find it interesting....doing a google search (learning management system) Blackboard is on page 3. Moodle on page 1. Angle on page 3 (above Blackboard) and a whole slew of other LMS providers before and after. Seems like a very healthy market.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (2, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | about 5 years ago | (#28857963)

Second Blackboard is a leading industry LMS provider - they are really good at what they do.
Really good at convincing the powers that be to buy thier shitware and force it on us yes.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1)

2fuf (993808) | about 5 years ago | (#28854077)

Sure, and having them all killed solves that problem, right? Jokes about killing people always piss me off, especially when you're trying to convey a serious message. Killing people is not something to take that lightly, man. Don't mess up a good remark with sick humor.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28854145)

True, save the killing for the Wall St. execs.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 5 years ago | (#28854207)

Who says he was joking? There are a lot of people who think patent trolls are actively destroying our economy and that the government can't or won't do anything to protect the population.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1)

2fuf (993808) | about 5 years ago | (#28854441)

And how does that make you feel? Don't tell me you're defending their opinion. Personally I abhor the death penalty, but even seriously discussing software developers' execution over a couple of faulty patents is something I never expected to be doing. Maybe Americans should start taking their democratic rights more seriously before blaming "the government" and "the Wall Street executives". A bunch of sick hypocrites you are!

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (2, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 5 years ago | (#28854617)

I'm pretty neutral on it, honestly. I'm not for vigilantism and its inherent societal breakdown, but I'd have a hard time convicting someone like that guy from Texas [slashdot.org] who's being sued by patent trolls, apparently for no other reason than that he's from Texas, were he to take the law into his own hands.

Maybe Americans should start taking their democratic rights more seriously before blaming "the government" and "the Wall Street executives".

I'd say that's exactly what he'd be doing.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1)

2fuf (993808) | about 5 years ago | (#28855143)

If you want to make a difference, get rid of the software patents. Do what the Hollywood writers did: refuse to do any work in software development until it's fixed. Put your money where your mouth is. Violence and killing are not democratic rights.

Re:Blackboard execs should all be killed (1)

PPH (736903) | about 5 years ago | (#28855123)

Nah. Just make them stay after class and clean the erasers.

Hurry!!! (4, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | about 5 years ago | (#28853371)

Quick, post your comments on slashdot before Blackboard patents a method for providing an interface that allows snarky and/or sarcastic comments to forum posts!!!

Re:Hurry!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28853491)

Too late sir. I'll see you in court!

Sincerely,
Blackboard

slashdot anti-capitalists (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28853375)

Can we please tone down the anti-capitalist rhetoric on slashdot? Every time there's a patent article on slashdot, the summary and comments all just ooze with thinly-veiled contempt for our free market system.

I'm sorry that you guys don't like it, but it's OK for people to want to make money off their ideas. Wanting to make lots of money is at the core of our system. You aren't going to change that.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (4, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 5 years ago | (#28853473)

I'm sorry that you guys don't like it, but it's OK for people to want to make money off their ideas.

As a capitalist, I wholeheartedly agree. As a citizen, I disagree with the government's grant of exclusive rights on something as nebulous as a software algorithm (as opposed to a specific implementation of that algorithm). Make money off your ideas all you want. I do! Just don't expect to make money of the sole act of having thought them.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (3, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about 5 years ago | (#28854681)

Seconded. The problem with patents is not their exclusivity. It's not the people get to make money from their ideas. The problem is that people get exclusive rights to make money off commonplace ideas that anyone faced with the problem would think of. This should not happen. Patents are allegedly only available for novel and non-obvious inventions. The problem is that obvious inventions are being granted patents.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (4, Insightful)

Broken scope (973885) | about 5 years ago | (#28853493)

Patents should protect your exclusive right to produce a device/product/whateverthefucktheyareactuallysupposedtoprotect, not protect your "right" to an entire market.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | about 5 years ago | (#28855151)

The sad fact is that patents have become such a big industry of their own, and the effect of a patent is no longer the rights provided by the patent itself, instead it's true power is its means of unleashing prohibitively expensive legal pressure upon others.

Multi-billion dollar corporations stand to lose millions on a product they market to the entire country due to an upstart company serving a smaller region. The larger company has nothing to lose by spending millions arguing a stretched scope of the patent causing the smaller company to spend millions on defense, or else lose millions due to false patent violations. Larger corporations also have nothing to lose by monopolizing the patent office with as many superfluous patent applications as they can dream up, making it more difficult and costly for smaller companies to obtain protection from their legal department.

If a patent holder had to demonstrate a concerted effort to bring a patented product or process to market within five years or face massive fines proportional to the patent holder's net worth, things would be a lot different. Unfortunately, corporate-funded lobbyists would never let that happen.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 5 years ago | (#28853549)

I have no problem with people making money. When they try to make money with ideas that aren't theirs, or ideas that are so ridiculously obvious or broad, then I have a problem.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

lorenlal (164133) | about 5 years ago | (#28853889)

When they try to make money with ideas that aren't theirs, or ideas that are so ridiculously obvious or broad, then I have a problem.

I have no problem with someone trying to make money with an idea that isn't theirs. If they make a better mousetrap, even if they didn't think of it, they should be able to profit off that. Also, if someone can find a good way to make money even off obvious ideas, I'm all for that too. It's when they try to do things in the court system with no intention of actually producing anything that I have issues.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | about 5 years ago | (#28854557)

The problem with this, in principle, is that it takes a lot of time and money to come up with, and design a mousetrap. If they build a completely different device for catching/killing mice, then I agree with you. If they take your device, rebrand it, and sell it, then there is a problem. If they take your device and change it only marginally, then there is a problem.

I think the drug company idea is a better example. It costs many millions of dollars to develop a new drug, put it through trials, get it approved by the FDA, etc. There would be no incentive to do R&D if the next person could simply copy the formula, or make a simple change like give it a candy coating. In this case, and what I hope you're referring to, is the idea that a drug company patents "Curing AIDS". An overly broad, non-specific implementation, wherein, if another company comes up with a completely different way to cure AIDS, they shouldn't be blocked from producing and selling it.*


*This is an analogy. Analogies aren't perfect. Please refrain from debating the specific merits and ethics of patenting drugs. (Social benefits, withholding health, etc.)

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (3, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about 5 years ago | (#28854867)

Drug companies are a great example, and how patents should work. If it costs you half a billion dollars to bring the next wonder drug to market, we as a society have a vested interest in you making more than half a billion dollars back. We want you to be profitable, because we want you (and people like you) to keep producing wonder drugs. We provide legal protection to make you money because we want to provide you with an incentive to invest time and money.

The parasitic case that gets everyone's back up is when some guy gets a simple idea, often one that either 1,000 people already had and didn't patent because it was trivial and not patent worthy, and patents it. There is no societal benefit to giving a pot of gold to the first person to think of something when -anyone- faced with the same problem would design a substantially similar solution at a cost of next to nothing. Beneficial things that cost nearly nothing to think up will continue to be produced because they're part of doing your job or running your business.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

floodo1 (246910) | about 5 years ago | (#28856193)

or we could subsidize the development of said drugs and really employ the public benefit by thereafter making them free......Oh wait, we already do the former!

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (4, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | about 5 years ago | (#28853561)

Every time there's a patent article on slashdot, the summary and comments all just ooze with thinly-veiled contempt for our free market system.

In what way are government-granted monopolies considered a "free market"? It seems kinda like the opposite.

it's OK for people to want to make money off their ideas.

An if you're actually competent, you can do that without crippling all your potential competitors and causing net harm to the economy.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#28853737)

I'm probably one of the most capitalist people you will ever meet, but patents != free market capitalism. Lets see, the government is giving a monopoly to a product. Thats not very capitalist. Patents are not free market capitalism.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (3, Insightful)

ammorais (1585589) | about 5 years ago | (#28853893)

I'm sorry that you guys don't like it, but it's OK for people to want to make money off their ideas. Wanting to make lots of money is at the core of our system. You aren't going to change that.

You are kidding right. Do you really think someone who is intellectually honest, and it isn't biased, and with two fingers of intelligence will agree with something like this:

A system and methods for implementing education online by providing institutions with the means for allowing the creation of courses to be taken by students online, the courses including assignments, announcements, course materials, chat and whiteboard facilities, and the like, all of which are...

You are kidding right. Do you know how vague this "idea" is, and how many possibilities it range? Do you really think this is an original idea, or the natural way technology evolve. Maybe they can also patent networks on the moon since we probably are going there and will need networks.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

tyroneking (258793) | about 5 years ago | (#28854185)

for f's sake - can't you actually link to the anti-capitalist post you're criticising? Then I can really slag you off.
Also, try to not post with AC if you're posting obvious flamebait - it makes it a lot harder for us sane people to hunt you down and overload you with derision each time you post ever again.
So, 'free market' is a pretty basic description of the s**t hole we are living in - you make it sound like cartels and "big government" don't exist --- but they do.
Where's the supply and demand in Bollockboard's case either? They held the license and refused to supply the IP to anyone at a reasonable price and indeed their patent was bollocks too. Sounds like a bunch of c**p; and this is the system you hold so dear.
basically it is NOT ok to make money off of IDEAS - it's only ok to make money off good implementations of ideas... otherwise my idea for a web based message board full of porn would be earning me millions...
here on /., and I know I speak for no one here, we believe not in anti-capitalism, but in *social democracy* - in other words, "please f**k off and stop bullying me you bastards" - and if you are going to do it, don't do it anonymously ... unless you're from /b/

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28854387)

I'm sorry that you guys don't like it...Wanting to make lots of money is at the core of our system. You aren't going to change that.

I'm sorry, but it's absolutely not, and you're quite socially impaired for allowing yourself to believe it. Capitalism and corporations, whatever they have grown into, were created to boost SOCIETAL improvements. Do you really think society sat down and thought, "OK, we want John to be much richer than Sarah"? No amount of posting that it's OK will help you to justify your sociopathic beliefs, because they're unjustifiable. If you want peace of mind, then mature, consider the ethics of society and the common good, and act in accordance.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28854405)

Every time there's a patent article on slashdot, the summary and comments all just ooze with thinly-veiled contempt for our free market system.

I'm strongly pro free market and I still can't see how this patent supports a fully functional and free market. I understand that some monopolies may be neccessary in order to provide incentives for what society needs, but this... What did they invent? It is a serious question: What did the come up with? I read through their patent application and I still don't know.

Patents are meant to benefit society by spreading the knowledge of how the protected innovation functions. In return the patent holders get a temporary monopoly. This type of application helps nobody but the patent owners and gives nothing back to society.

On the other hand:
I have a lot of respect for "the RSA guys" for example. Highly professional mathematicians who engage in a difficult task for years and finally come up with a fully functional solution to one of societys problems. People like that truly advance our society and this type of effort should be rewarded somehow, perhaps with a commercial monopoly. That is one of a very limited set of software/algorithm patents that I would approve of myself (not in that line of business though).

Monopolies should only be granted to truly great innovations. I realize that there is a hughe amount of work put into Blackboards system, but when it comes to actual innovations... What where they again?

[English is not my native language and I'm jet-lagged. Leave the spelling issues to some other day.]

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 5 years ago | (#28854477)

it's OK for people to want to make money off their ideas

It's okay for people to want to make money off just about anything, including sitting on their asses all day reading /.

However, We The People are not obligated to provide them with legal avenues for doing so.

In the specific case of "making money off ideas" -- no. Ideas are cheap. I have ideas all the time. Most of them are clearly silly and impractical, some of them seem to make some sense, and a few would probably be useful (and lucrative) if I put the time and effort into developing them. But making them from a passing thought into an actual product takes a hell of a lot of work. Until I've shown that I am willing and able to do that work, I really don't have the right to tell anyone else that their similar ideas, and work to turn those ideas into something valuable in the real world, are off-limits. Or rather, I have the right to tell them that, but they are under no obligation to listen, and neither are the courts.

The claim that ideas alone are of such sacred value that they must be carefully protected from the moment of their inception is a deeply pernicious one, which has done enormous damage to our economy and society. "Capitalists" who insist that the law interfere with the free market in such a manner are making a mockery of the principles they claim to hold.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

speedtux (1307149) | about 5 years ago | (#28855043)

but it's OK for people to want to make money off their ideas.

Yes, but it is NOT OK for people to want to make money off other people's ideas. And that is why the Slashdot community is so sour on companies like Blackboard.

It's people like you and companies like Blackboard that are "anti-capitalist".

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

fortyonejb (1116789) | about 5 years ago | (#28855191)

Can we please tone down the anti-capitalist rhetoric on slashdot? Every time there's a patent article on slashdot, the summary and comments all just ooze with thinly-veiled contempt for our free market system.

I'm sorry that you guys don't like it, but it's OK for people to want to make money off their ideas. Wanting to make lots of money is at the core of our system. You aren't going to change that.

I fully endorse our free market system, but, what BB has done is simply absurd. I previously maintained an online learning management system which at the time was in danger of being sued by BB for simply being a tool to manage distance learning. BB got away with the equivalent of Amazon selling books online. Getting a patent on selling a type of item over the internet would be absurd. Having a patent for something as generic as online learning is ridiculous.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

Biff Stu (654099) | about 5 years ago | (#28855307)

The real problem is that the US patent system is anti-capitalist. It's way too easy to get a bullshit patent where there's clearly prior art or the so-called innovation is entirely trivial. This allows any fool who can afford a patent layer to amass a portfolio of bullshit patents. Once the patents have been issued, they're valid US patents, and the owner of the patents can use them to get an injunction to block competition. In order to get the patent overturned, the competitor will need to go to court and spend millions in legal fees and endure a long, slow trial process that will take at least a year (Blackboard won the initial suit back in February of 2008). To make matters worse, the competitor is blocked from the market until the trial process is over. As a result, the patent system actually stifles innovation. This is especially true in markets involving emerging technology where most patent examiners have no clue as to what's actually a novel idea, and the nascent market is too small to justify the legal fees to overturn the patent.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (2, Insightful)

migla (1099771) | about 5 years ago | (#28857205)

Pfff.. You think there's much anti-capitalism? No there isn't. Not even enough of it.

We're soaking in capitalism and marketing and shit every day, here on slashdot and most everywhere else. Freemarketism is the fucking baseline of human culture in the west.

Re:slashdot anti-capitalists (1)

thebheffect (1409105) | about 5 years ago | (#28857783)

Patents like this are anti-capitalist. 'A learning management system that allows a single user login to have multiple roles'. Great invention. Slap a patent on it, gotta protect that ambition to invent!

Yay. (3, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 5 years ago | (#28853389)

As a prof, I hate blackboard. It is the buggiest, stupidest, slowest education software I have ever had the misfortune to use.

Hopefully this will kill them, and force TPTB to get something that actually works.

Re:Yay. (5, Interesting)

cream wobbly (1102689) | about 5 years ago | (#28853753)

I taught a course a while back where I directed students to refer to coursenotes for other courses, written by other lecturers, having made those lecturers aware I was doing so. A week later, nobody had read around the subject using notes from two lecturers in particular. Not being the most forthcoming in terms of volunteering why they hadn't done something, I asked them why, and my students informed me that Blackboard did not allow them to read other lecturers' coursenotes. Because they weren't enrolled on those other courses.

Speaking to the other lecturers, it turns out that it would mean they would have to jump through hoops to allow "non enrolled" students to read those notes via Blackboard. In fact, I myself could not read those notes. So we just enrolled me, and I copied and pasted to my own Intranet pages.

Now, I can imagine why in some situations you might want to "protect" readers or information -- such as in a hospital or a business situation, but this was at a friggin' university, where "reading around" is the lifeblood of learning. Why on earth is it the default to hide coursenotes from students who are not enrolled on a particular course?

Of course, the best bit was that the Unix-based Intranet hosted the best quality notes anyway. Plus, it worked in all browsers.

I also remember a competition to rename "Blackboard". Some of the suggestions were sensible and didn't show much imagination (kinda like Microsoft products): "Chalkboard", "Whiteboard", "Intranet". Others were appropriate, and described the product more fully. However, you wouldn't say them in polite company.

Re:Yay. (2, Interesting)

dickens (31040) | about 5 years ago | (#28854469)

Hell, I've taken blackboard courses where you had to type in a friggin' license number from the back of the $125 paper-back textbook in order to have the "right" to read the "supplementary material" on the publisher's web site (that was required reading). The whole course was bought pre-packaged and plugged in to blackboard. Boy did it suck, too. Can't imagine what the prof in question was getting paid for.

Re:Yay. (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | about 5 years ago | (#28856317)

He was getting paid for making each student in his class buy a $125 product.

Re:Yay. (1)

sweatyboatman (457800) | about 5 years ago | (#28854497)

Why on earth is it the default to hide coursenotes from students who are not enrolled on a particular course?

Perhaps because universities would like to prevent people from auditing courses that they didn't pay for.

Of course, you're right in that BB should have made it easier to set up document sharing between courses, but there are educational institutions that have a legitimate interest in preventing/limiting that behavior.

Reading web material is not auditing. (1)

codegen (103601) | about 5 years ago | (#28854959)

There is more to auditing than reading the course notes. Things like attending labs and lectures, and getting credit for the audit on the transcripts. Some courses legitimately hide course material from the general public, usually professional courses. But the default should not be to hid the course notes. This is the reason that I do not use the blackboard product at my institution for my classes. I have just used a regular website. Our faculty is moving to moodle this year, so we will see how that goes.

Re:Yay. (1)

Shawn Parr (712602) | about 5 years ago | (#28855905)

If the university doesn't want you auditing a class you didn't pay for, then they won't let you log in to the system and/or see that class. This has nothing to do with typing a code from the text book. That is all at the publisher level.

The publishers provide universities with course packs called cartridges. I don't deal with blackboard directly, so these may or may not have a charge associated with them. Considering we are talking about blackboard they probably cost a pretty penny.

The publishers then want to make sure all your students are buying their textbook that goes with the cartridge. So they are adding code to ensure that your student had to buy the book in order to get access to all the content in the cartridge. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a system of online registration with many publishers to ensure that the student bought a NEW copy of the book to get access.

This is just the publisher making sure they get all the money from a course that they can.

Re:Yay. (1)

silent_artichoke (973182) | about 5 years ago | (#28856171)

I wouldn't be surprised if there was a system of online registration with many publishers to ensure that the student bought a NEW copy of the book to get access.

There is. I got bit by this real bad one semester. I was fortunate to get to the bookstore and find the last used book. It was a nice hardback book in good shape that cost around $100. When the class started, it turned out that we had to have one of those registration codes. The code slip managed to survive with the book up until then and I typed it in. It was expired. I called them to get the code reset and they told me that I would have to purchase a new book. I ended up having to take the book back to the bookstore and turn it in for a new one in order to get a stupid code. The worst part wasn't the fact that the new one cost me $160 when the used one was only $100. It was that the new book came as a 2 inch stack of loose paper wrapped in plastic. I had to buy a binder to hold it all.

Re:Yay. (1)

Brandee07 (964634) | about 5 years ago | (#28858529)

I bought a used book once only to find out that you needed one of these activation codes to access the online content... meh. It didn't look like the online content was anything more than the text content in PDF.

Well, it turns out that all homework for that course was turned in via the website+activation code. And that the program it wanted me to use to do the homework didn't run on Macs.

I dropped that section of the course and enrolled with a teacher who had better taste in textbooks.

Re:Yay. (2, Interesting)

CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) | about 5 years ago | (#28856131)

As a Dutch student I have the right to follow any lecture at any university in the country. Due to Blackboard I cannot even access last years lecture notes of my own study, let alone those of any other study. Hell, I can't even look up the schedule.

Re:Yay. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28855677)

Why on earth is it the default to hide coursenotes from students who are not enrolled on a particular course?

Ask your administrator why it's turned off. Guest access for courses is a global setting in the administrator panel and can be overridden on a course by course basis. Blackboard has issues, but this is not a valid one.

Re:Yay. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28857745)

Dude, read up on FERPA and possibly your university's privacy policies. There's a reason students can't access other courses willy-nilly. If you want the notes to be public, but them on a public web server.

Moodle? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 years ago | (#28854153)

As a prof, I hate blackboard. It is the buggiest, stupidest, slowest education software I have ever had the misfortune to use.

Hopefully this will kill them, and force TPTB to get something that actually works.


Have you had a look at Moodle [moodle.org] ? I came across it the other day when I was evaluating Drupal for my website.

Re:Moodle? (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 5 years ago | (#28856333)

thanks! I'll check it out. There is also an IT stumbling block - the folks who implement Blackboard will be the ones to shuffle to Moodle, and given how entrenched Blackboard and all of its sucktasticness (sp?) in my school's IT managerial class, I don't know if I would even be allowed to use Moodle parallel to Blackboard, much less in place of...

Sigh.

Blackboard's patent (2, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | about 5 years ago | (#28853413)

A system and methods for implementing education online by providing institutions with the means for allowing the creation of courses to be taken by students online, the courses including assignments, announcements, course materials, chat and whiteboard facilities, and the like, all of which are...

lol.

Outstanding news... so far... (2, Interesting)

CodeShark (17400) | about 5 years ago | (#28853433)

Because, as most /. readers tend to believe, "information wants to be free", and the Blackboad patent was so directly a contravention of that idea that even their own case filings ignored the idea of courseware to focus on a single aspect -- allowing a student who is also a teacher in another role -- to use one login. Then they used a faulty decision in that court to target their competitor -- who made no infringing claim.

The appeal judges state "On the merits, we hold that those claims do not contain a âoesingle loginâ limitation and that the district courtâ(TM)s contrary interpretation of the claim language in its JMOL ruling was error" (I think they meant "erroneous").

The problem is later where the Appeals court did not consider whether or note Blackboard's patent was wholely discardable because they did NOT rule as to whether or not the single login multiple role functionality is OBVIOUS or not.

Prior art anyone?

Re:Outstanding news... so far... (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 5 years ago | (#28853901)

The appeal judges state "On the merits, we hold that those claims do not contain a âoesingle loginâ limitation and that the district courtâ(TM)s contrary interpretation of the claim language in its JMOL ruling was error" (I think they meant "erroneous").

The problem is later where the Appeals court did not consider whether or note Blackboard's patent was wholely discardable because they did NOT rule as to whether or not the single login multiple role functionality is OBVIOUS or not.

This decision certainly leaves the door open for Blackboard to file a continuation and add the single-login limitation, which seems to have support in the specification.

Re:Outstanding news... so far... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#28855701)

Because, as most /. readers tend to believe, "information wants to be free"

When information isn't free, neither are you.

Re:Outstanding news... so far... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28856141)

> Because, as most /. readers tend to believe, "information wants to be free", and the Blackboad patent was so directly a contravention of that idea that even their own case filings ignored the idea of courseware to focus on a single aspect -- allowing a student who is also a teacher in another role -- to use one login. Then they used a faulty decision in that court to target their competitor -- who made no infringing claim.

Interesting interpretation, but not quite. Blackboard's court filings focused in part on trying to make it look like their patent contained single-sign-in multiple-role courseware. They did that because they (and others) had written courseware in the past, and if nothing distinguished their new patent from the prior courseware then parts of their patents wouldn't be valid.

blackboard is crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28853451)

As a student, Blackboard is the biggest pile of crap! Everybody at the university hates it, including all staff. Maybe the court will just burn the code for no reason.

blackboard is horrible (1)

Sir_Real (179104) | about 5 years ago | (#28853459)

The fact that anyone pays to use their software saddens me. It's absolutely awful. They're making a killing too. It's becoming the standard educational institution package, mostly because all the other universities use it. Their "clustering" solution is an absolute joke. They just recently started supporting 64-bit jvm's. That means that until recently if you wanted to scale, you had to launch multiple 1GB VM's and load balance requests yourself. The frequency, severity and apathy of the bugs is stunning. I personally don't have the capacity for hate that this "software" deserves. It's an absolute turd.

Re:blackboard is horrible (1)

BitHive (578094) | about 5 years ago | (#28853691)

Just wait until you want to start doing serious Moodle development! It may be better than Bb but it's still awful.

Re:blackboard is horrible (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 5 years ago | (#28854277)

Which makes me wonder -- why is it that LMSs in general seem to suck so much? I mean, the basic functionality isn't hard; it's the kind of thing that lots of database-driven web apps do. It seems to me that most schools would be better off paying some junior- and senior-level CS students to roll their own than using pretty much any of the prepackaged "solutions," whether proprietary or OSS. Are there hidden complexities that I'm just not seeing? Can anyone who's ever worked on an LMS explain what some of the challenges are?

Re:blackboard is horrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28854581)

It seems to me that most schools would be better off paying some junior- and senior-level CS students to roll their own than using pretty much any of the prepackaged "solutions,"

your inner PHB is showing!

Re:blackboard is horrible (1)

MikeURL (890801) | about 5 years ago | (#28854585)

I'm looking at BB right now. It has some "broadcast" features built in that are pretty basic (ability to send emails to selected classmates or to all). There is a gradebook, a calendar, some collaboration tools...I mean, none of this stuff really strikes me as a programming challenge.

I do think it has an impressive number of tools all in one place. What I don't see are any real-time videoconferencing options. It could be that this is just not enabled at my site but that seems to me to be the one are where LMSs should be on the cutting edge.

Re:blackboard is horrible (1)

BForrester (946915) | about 5 years ago | (#28855501)

Desire2Learn -- the competitor -- supports the integration of various RT conferencing options. At the college where I teach, the Elluminate module can be "snapped in" to any course if the instructor so desires. In fact, (with a bit of very basic coding), any web-based service can be added to a course as a page widget.

Also, re: suckage and cost
At my institution, we went for a 3rd part closed source solution because said 3rd party could be relied on for support and also held more responsible for shortcomings than grad students. A large part of the suckiness of the program is due to bloat (from trying to please a vast array of customers with a single product). I don't think the logic behind that decision was watertight... but there is at least some method behind the madness.

Re:blackboard is horrible (1)

edremy (36408) | about 5 years ago | (#28854939)

There are actually quite a few hidden bits that do make it harder.

Here's an obvious one- how's your web application's Arabic support? You do have a full UI translation in Arabic, right? Also Russian, Chinese and Japanese? Professors teaching those courses want their sites in those languages. Moodle has language packs for 81 different languages

SCORM/IMS support is another one- the specs are detailed and exacting, but without it you can't access a lot of prepackaged stuff.

I recently read a brief code analysis of Moodle and Sakai, which I can no longer find. In short, they have a lot of coding put into them- I think Moodle has something like 180 man-years of effort on the code and Sakai 130.

Re:blackboard is horrible (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 5 years ago | (#28855593)

Ah, full-scale language support is an aspect I hadn't thought of, and yeah, I can see how that would add a lot of complexity. Thanks; that's the kind of specific problem I was looking for.

As for SCORM, at first glance I have to say that it looks like an absurdly complex specification for something that ought to be a lot simpler. Which is a problem not unique to LMSs, of course.

Re:blackboard is horrible (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | about 5 years ago | (#28855387)

Can anyone who's ever worked on an LMS explain what some of the challenges are?

Well, I worked on modifying CMS for a while, and it's basically the same situation. I'd say that it's a combination of feature creep and the absence of a bulletproof framework.

Re:blackboard is horrible (2, Interesting)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 5 years ago | (#28857881)

It's not all that difficult to set up a system where you log in, click on a course to launch it, and the course communicates with the LMS. That's only one small part of the LMS though, there are a lot of managerial things to set up also.

I've worked for the same company for the past 7 years, the core business of the company is producing online training courses but when I started we did have an LMS also that we built. At the time it was on version 5, and had started as a research project for Intel in 1998. It was written in ASP/VBScript, and used a SQL Server database. Through 5 versions it had never had a formal design document, every single feature was just added in somewhere when a customer asked for it. One of my first big LMS projects here was working on version 6, which was the first version to support SCORM in addition to AICC. After a while I finally got my boss to agree to let me redesign and rewrite the LMS from the ground up, and we finally got a customer who was willing to help fund it. So, about 3000 man-hours later, we've got version 7 (7.1.8 at this point) which runs on PHP/MySQL and uses the ExtJS framework for the interface, which I actually did create a design document and database structure for before beginning development.

The course launching and tracking parts didn't take that long to develop. SCORM takes a little while to set up, but AICC is pretty quick. But logging into the main admin area gives you a menu with these items:

Users - see all users (students, instructors, user group admins, sub-admins, main admins), add/edit/delete users, assign users to content, assign users to user groups.

Registration fields - custom user demographic fields, 30 total, each can be a text field, number field, date field, or dropdown list, with basic validation and various options for whether the students can fill them out or change them, only admins can, if they can be used to sort in the user list, etc.

User Groups - users are divided into groups, each user can be a member of 0 or more groups, groups are nested in a tree structure, you can manually assign users or user group admins to a group, specify which content or content groups a user group has access to, specify rules to automatically assign users to groups based on the custom registration fields. Autoassignments are a big part, if you have a user register and they put in maybe a certain country for one of their fields, you can set up a rule to automatically assign them to a certain user group that gives them access to certain content without the admin needing to assign it to them manually.

Content - add/edit/remove online training, online tests (the LMS has a test creator for creating T/F, multiple choice, or essay tests), classroom training, or other online resources. Content is grouped into categories in a folder structure, there are various "wizards" to upload or edit the content.

Content groups - similar content can be grouped together, making it easier to assign entire courses of study to a user or user group.

Classrooms - set up physical locations for classroom training.

Classroom sessions - set up a session for a certain classroom course to be taught at a certain location with a certain instructor at a certain date/time. Students can register for and drop out of class sessions, emails get sent to give them information about the waiting list, location, etc.

Record Entry - admins can manually enter training records for students.

News & Updates - admins can set up news stories announcing new courses or whatever, news stories can apply to user groups so that when a user logs in they see news from their groups.

Reports - many, many reports for the admins.

General settings - various options, split up into 6 categories (Login, Passwords, Users, Email, General Admin, User Group Admin).

Admin Tools - "advanced" tools to do things like upload LMS interface graphics, check on what a user has access to and how they got access to it, delete records, etc.

So, there's a lot to do for an LMS. I'm working now on a feature where admins can set up email templates and distribution lists and send email blasts out to students. The distribution list filters and options are pretty complex, so that one's taking a while to hash out. Anyway, an LMS is a lot more than just launching and tracking courses. And I didn't even get into the interfaces for the students, instructors, user group admin, etc.

Code-wise, we've got about 550KB of PHP code for the backend, and for the interface code the students get about 70KB of minified Javascript and the main admin needs over 300KB of minified Javascript. There's not much HTML markup to speak of.

Re:blackboard is horrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28853929)

Roger that. I have taught on both BB and D2L, and I hate BlackBoard. I could talk for hours about its many flaws. It looks like the Blackboard folks would rather try and kill the competition than actually create a workable product. D2L is MUCH better.

Good call (4, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 5 years ago | (#28853621)

Somebody tried to patent the blackboard?

Now THERE's a stretch...

Dead company walking (3, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | about 5 years ago | (#28853763)

You know when some company with a totally crap product starts looking at their patent portfolio for survival...you know, like SCO...that they don't have much going for them. Instead of putting that time and money into making their products better, they put their best efforts into litigation. You know that's a red flag for any company.

Can we please trade eastern district of Texas back to Mexico? That court is a plague on business and an anchor on innovation.

Scribd? Gee, thanks. (4, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#28853879)

you may read the appellate court's decision here (PDF) or on scribd.

Or if scribd is insufficiently annoying, we can print it out with an old 40 chars-per-line dot matrix, onto toasted wholemeal bread. We can then supply a strong lamp, a pen, and some blank bread for use as notepaper whilst you attempt to decipher it.

Re:Scribd? Gee, thanks. (1)

flibuste (523578) | about 5 years ago | (#28857417)

No, that's fine, thank you. ScribD IS sufficiently annoying.

Can someone remind me why those kind of sites which gather docs and make then absolutely unreadable exist?

Their own prior art (1)

furby076 (1461805) | about 5 years ago | (#28853945)

OK - first ignore (for a moment) your hate of patents, copyright, etc.

Now ignore the othe companies prior art.
My question: Blackboard created (in 1999) some software and then later merged that company (their original company) into blackboard (seems like they just wanted to incorporate with a better name) and absorbed the patents. Given the patents are now owned by blackboard - I don't understand how their own prior art could invalidate them? Couldn't they sue based on that prior art? This one eludes me.

Re:Their own prior art (2, Informative)

meerling (1487879) | about 5 years ago | (#28854425)

I'm not any kind of patent expert or anything like that, so take this guesswork with a few thousand grains of salt.

I believe that prior art has to be listed for a variety of reasons. I'm pretty sure that one of them is to limit the scope and duration of that portion of any new patent that includes that same (?) feature. To not list prior art that they themselves own is kind of like trying to get a free (and faudulent) extension to the previous patent.
(Kind of like expecting the warranty on your old stereo to be fully renewed because you bought a new knob for it.)

Also, I've seen articles about several patents that just don't have enough substance to qualify for a patent after removing stuff covered by prior art. In which case, not listing your own prior art can be an attempt at getting a patent for something that doesn't qualify.

A third possible reason why not listing your own prior art can be a legal or proceedural problem. That prior art may have it's own licensing or other IP agreements or issues, but if a new patent covers that same functionality without excluding it via prior art you're probably looking at a number of possible fraudulent lawsuits.
(We already licensed patent zyy, and now they want us to pay again because it also violates patent zzx...)

I'm sure you can see how patent trolls and other patent lowlifes can really abuse this.

Re:Their own prior art (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28855393)

Prior art is not "somebody patented it already". Prior art is "somebody published it already".

If I publish a description of a new invention, then five years later decide I'd like to patent it because it's making money, I'm too late. My own published description from five years previously is prior art.

So Blackboard publish software embodying an "invention". Several years later they patent that "invention". The original software is prior art and invalidates the patent.

Claims 39-44 enforceable? (1)

portwojc (201398) | about 5 years ago | (#28854421)

They still have claims 39-44 and those are enforceable? What! Those are dependent claims. You break the parent and the dependent ones fall apart. At least that's what I was always told. Am I wrong on that or do they just want to keep hope alive?

Re:Claims 39-44 enforceable? (1)

Patent Lover (779809) | about 5 years ago | (#28854845)

Nope, not in litigation. The independents are broad. The dependents more narrow.

Re:Claims 39-44 enforceable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28855869)

No, if the independent claims are invalid, the dependent claims might add some novel and nonobvious feature that preserves validity. That almost never happens, but it can in theory. All patent claims are presumed valid even if other claims are determined to be invalid. But the reality is that no court (or anyone else) is going to look at this patent as truly enforceable if nearly 90% of the claims have already been held to be invalid.

Case Study: CUNY 2009 (4, Informative)

dcollins (135727) | about 5 years ago | (#28854851)

Consider this headline: "Blackboard Breakdown: CUNY in a 'Very Difficult Box to Get Out of' After Online Centralization Plan Backfires". (CUNY, City University of New York, third-largest university system in the US, 21 campuses).

"Blackboard 8 had never been used at a university close to the size of CUNY, where it has 130,000 users including 8,000 faculty members. When the semester started, Blackboard buckled under the load, which peaked at 35,000 users every three hours during peak activity. Sporadic Blackboard service during the first weeks of the semester meant many students could not submit their assignments, take quizzes or stay in contact with their instructors."

http://www.indypendent.org/2009/06/12/blackboard_breakdown/ [indypendent.org]

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