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223 comments

Awful patent. (2, Interesting)

albalbo (33890) | more than 7 years ago | (#15830952)

We were talking about this on a UK ml the other day; there are a number of Moodle people worried about this.

It's a patent so bad it looks like the EPO won't grant it. Which is really saying something.

Re:Awful patent. (4, Interesting)

albalbo (33890) | more than 7 years ago | (#15830965)

I also meant to add my favourite quote from the patent:

"For example, an Internet user's ability to access information using that medium is significantly reduced if the user lacks understanding of how to use Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) to traverse (i.e., navigate) web pages."


I think I stopped reading shortly after that point, it would have hurt too much to continue.

Re:Awful patent. (0, Offtopic)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831895)

I wonder what your thrust is... it seems a bit elitist. You're perfectly happy working with all of the components of a URL, and can probably do some interesting investigative work by editing them in creative ways.

The vast majority of the population is not a member of your?little&URL%20editing+club, and I really don't see a major reason to require that bit of technical prowess to be able to use the vast majority of network resources effectively. They only know URLs from the "dubya dubya dubya" stuff that they hear in a radio advertisement, and for them, it's all they need to get started.

Clicking a hyperlink isn't actually a user using URLs. The user is just using the hyperlink. All that URL stuff is just an implementation detail behind the scenes, mostly unseen, where all implementation details should be.

Yes, browsers expose URLs in tooltips and status bars and properties boxes, as well as in other ways. Sometimes you need to learn a bit of this to protect yourself from goatse.cx or virusland.com. In my opinion, all this is a just a crappy stopgap in a leaky metaphor. User interfaces for most products should not require especially technical knowledge of the implementation.

There are no good software patents (4, Insightful)

pieterh (196118) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831130)

The problem is not that there are 'good' and 'bad' software patents, even if such a distinction can be made (since clearly it's a relative judgement).

The problem is that there is no mechanism that can filter the very damaging software patents from the less-damaging ones. At least, as far as experience shows in the USA and Europe, any legal definition that allows some software patents can be systematically broadened to include them all.

The only barrier to the really damaging software patents - the ones that claim ownership of an entire software ecology - is a blanket ban on the patenting of software, period. In Europe this is called the "subject matter" criteria, which is the key barrier to software patents in Europe. Prior art, triviality, and industrial application (the other criteria) are hackable to mean anything one likes. Lawyers have also been hacking the subject matter, but it's harder, since the European Patent Convention clearly does not allow patents on computer programs. (The hack usually starts by saying, "ah, but we're not patenting the program, just the underlying methods...")

The Blackboard patent looks truly obvious, but that's not enough of an argument to invalidate it. One needs to prove it was unobvious when it was filed and that your prior art can be documented to before that date as well. I've seen in patent suits in Europe that this can be very difficult, even for well-funded firms. Once granted, a relevant patent has an even chance of surviving, no matter what you throw at it. Ask Microsoft... they've been at the sharp end often enough.

Eventually, we need to see a movement to ban the patenting of software in the USA, much like this movement already exists in Europe. The alternative is to see the software ecology get more and more subverted, to the point where small-to-medium firms cannot innovate any longer, which is a bad place to be in an information economy.

To those who say, "if it's a bad patent, fight it in court", please understand that being at the receiving end of such legal instruments is tantamount to being at the end of a large gun. Small firms cannot afford lawsuits, even frivoulous ones, and it's incredible that the USPTO should have turned into an accomplice and tool of such legalized extortions.

Who stands up for the small-to-medium IT firms?

It's not just the patent... (4, Insightful)

guisar (69737) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831523)

Blackboard and WebCT are consolidating the educational "on-line" learning software market and this is VERY bad for open source. Neither of these systems is at all friendly to Linux; I have to use them as an on-line professor. They don't work with Firefox, they don't work with Konqueror. The systems themselves are terribly complex and non-intuitive.

If this sounds somewhat like a rant- I encourage you to try either of these systems. I believe you'll come away just as frustrated. The notion of these systems gaining, or even trying to gain a stranglehold is very depressing.

I hope that not only are these patents denied but that Blackboard and WebCT get tied up in litigation until they go Chapter 11. If any market should be supportive of Open Source, I think the on-line learning marketplace is a natural. Having Blackboard and WebCT dominate is not good for us.

Re:It's not just the patent... (1)

DarkSarin (651985) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831627)

Maybe it's just the version of BB that I've seen at my university (and my college before that), but I've never had any trouble using blackboard in Firefox.

That said, I still hate it. Clemson had a reasonably usable system that they developed (and hence could have continued to develop) that they abandoned wholesale in favor of BB, which ALL of the professors I have spoken to either HATE or are indifferent to. None of them actually like it, and a large number refuse to use it on ideological grounds (from what I can tell, anyways). Some use it only while holding their nose, and a few use it while cursing violently (literally, and not just in front of the graduate students, but in front of the undergrads as well).

I wish we had switched to Moodle or another OSS CMS, but that would have been far too easy.

BB, along with others, needs to abandon the idea of software patents. Frankly, patents are a nasty bit of work, and like copyrights they are now doing the opposite of what they were supposed to encourage.

Linux support: WAS: Re:It's not just the patent... (3, Informative)

DoktorMel (35110) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831648)

I think your institution needs to upgrade. The latest releases of Blackboard are _extremely_ firefox-friendly. The only features which didn't work with firefox in the 6.x releases, so far as I am aware, are the WYSIWYG editor (which I've never made a practice of using, preferring to write good html). All of these features are working in the current 7.x releases. I think you probably need to consult with your system administrators--a rather more limited audience than that afforded by /.--to determine what their upgrade schedule looks like.

I would also point out before this becomes a "Blackboard hates Linux" thread, that Blackboard has always released its product for Linux and I believe most of their hosting business runs on Linux as well.

Re:Linux support: WAS: Re:It's not just the patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831825)

the parent poster is actively posting exploits on his webpage and trying to break into peoples computers. fucking asshole.

Moodle (1)

skinfitz (564041) | more than 7 years ago | (#15830957)

What will this mean for moodle?

Re:Moodle (1)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831003)

What will this mean for moodle?

Nothing, as the patent isn't even worth the paper it's written on.

Re:Moodle (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831507)

Nothing, as the patent isn't even worth the paper it's written on.

You must be new here. Even a baseless patent gains value when it's backed up by an army of lawyers and a few million dollars.

The actual truth or falsehood of facts dim in relative importance compared to who can afford to defend them in court.

Re:Moodle (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831679)

Surely you heard of the BlackBerry case in which RIM paid $600+ million to a company with repeatedly rejected patents?

Prior art=all content management systems (3, Insightful)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 7 years ago | (#15830973)

Well. You can't patent something as ubiquitous as a content managment system which is what blackboard is (Sure a special type of CMS but still it's a CMS)

Re:Prior art=all content management systems (2)

mwilliamson (672411) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831030)

The USPO is the most overworked, underpaid, and un-qualified group around to evaluate patent claims. They are only concerned with crossing the t's and dotting the i's and cannot actually evaluate content. If you fill out the right paperwork, you can patent anything, perhaps even a method for pulling in air to extract oxygen and disperse extra CO2 in the bloodstream called breathing.

Here's a pathetic example of the crap the USPO grants: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6368227.html [freepatentsonline.com] (a method for swinging)

What this means is that, much like the court system challenging bad laws, it will take someone to challenge a patent to render its validity. If nobody challenges it, the bad patent stands.

Re:Prior art=all content management systems (4, Informative)

The_REAL_DZA (731082) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831278)

If you can patent:
then you probably could jam-through a patent for just about anything [uspto.gov]

Asstrology (1)

jefu (53450) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831561)

The astrology one is actually kind of fun reading :

Beyond the simple observable truth that Western astrology determines positions by factitious means, there are three critical self-contradictions within Western astrology. First, Ptolemy neglected to incorporate the precession of the equinoxes into his astrological catechism, though, through Hipparchus, he was aware of its effect. Although Ptolemy defined the vernal equinox to nearly accurate positions of his time, when he fixed this location of the equinox zodiac position, the zodiac constellations became, increasingly over time, factitious signs.

Though since it is little more than mathematical formulae :

calculating said longitude, .lamda., from said .alpha., .delta. and .beta. data by: .lamda.=arc cos((cos .delta. cos .alpha.)/cos .beta
it would seem by any reasonable definition unpatentable.

And the "interacting with your computer" one looks like a description of those labelled input pads people used to use, so the prior art looks strong on that as well.

Mathematics Too (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831722)

You can also patent mathematical algorithms too.

UK patent - GB2322704, is a patenting of the generalised radon transform.

Re:Prior art=all content management systems (1)

Jtheletter (686279) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831761)

I agree those are all good examples of TERRIBLE patents and none should have been granted in the first place. For the record, though, the Swinging on a Swing patent had all of it's claims overturned on review after many people complained.

ANother example (5, Informative)

teflaime (738532) | more than 7 years ago | (#15830982)

of the incompetence in the US patent office. There is nothing patentable about Blackboard. It introduces nothing new to teaching, to learning, or anything. It's a horrible patent, and I hope the court finds the patent invalid. Besides, Mallard was the first online teaching environment, so UIUC should be suing Blackboard.

Re:ANother example (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831242)

It introduces nothing new to teaching, to learning, or anything. It's a horrible patent

It's not that grand of a CMS, either.

Don't Fight the Patent.. (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831544)

... This way no one else can ever... EVER ... build another interface that bad again!

Seriously, their admin interface is one of the most horrible I have ever come across.

Blackboard (1)

jefu (53450) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831608)

Blackboard should be shunned and loathed (most educators I know who use it and who have any sense loathe it already - it seems to be beloved more of administrators).

I only use blackboard as a way to collect and return assignments. It is awkward, painful and easy to goof with (for example, returning notes on an assignment to the wrong person). The only reason I use it is that my homebrew version which used a web interface and Postgresql and which was very hard indeed to goof with, was considered arcane by the students.

I can only hope that this does to Blackboard what the SCO suit did to them - but I am far from optimistic.

Re:ANother example (1)

Egregius (842820) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831901)

"There is nothing patentable about Blackboard. It introduces nothing new to teaching"/

Nothing new? How about a horrible interface?

Oh wait, that isn't new.

I can top that. (-1, Redundant)

blcamp (211756) | more than 7 years ago | (#15830984)


I have patented the Breathing System (BS).

EVERYBODY PAY UP NOW!

Re:I can top that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831032)

I think my patent on separating raw oxygen from atmospheric gas using red cells predates your patent and even violates it!
I even patented beowulf cluster of red cells, anybody is using it now and i will wait few more years than starting to sue and charge everyone.

WebCT (3, Informative)

mwilliamson (672411) | more than 7 years ago | (#15830989)

This is the same company that recently acquired WebCT, which was probably their biggest commercial competitor. They have plans to "merge" the Blackboard and WebCT product line, but they're so different I suspect they're just going to kill one off and concentrate on the other.

I've just lost a lot of respect for these guys with this patent BS. Long live Moodle!

Re:WebCT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831676)

They've already started asking WebCT folks in Vancouver to move to Washington DC, or accept a package.

Stockpiling prior art? (3, Interesting)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831002)

Wait a minute...

A great many educators are a bit shook up by this, and are stockpiling prior art all over the place


If they can prove in a court of law that there is prior art, I don't see what the fuss is all about. Whatever stupid patent the attacking company shows, it will be laughed out of court and will probably be declared null and void.

Of course, that's assuming the judge involved in this case still has functioning grey matter, which may be a bit too optmistic. Then again, SCO is in dire straits, so there is still hope...

One thing is certain though: this case proves, if that was still needed, that the US Patent Office does not have any grey matter left. I mean, another (fairly-obvious-sounding) patent that could be invalidated with prior art? How many of these exist out there "in the wild", to be used by rich b______s?

Re:Stockpiling prior art? (4, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831040)

The big deal is that it's going to cost a lot of money and take a lot of time. Why should Desire2Learn have to suffer because the USPO is a bunch of idiots?

Re:Stockpiling prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831105)

Why should Desire2Learn have to suffer because the USPO is a bunch of idiots?

Because, that's the way it is. Maybe, since education is such a hot political topic, a lawsuit would be just what's needed to wake the legislatute up to some of these issues with the USPO.

Re:Stockpiling prior art? (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831184)

They've woken up long ago. Patent and copyright holders are some of the largest political contributors.

Re:Stockpiling prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831594)

And this helps them get patents how? The USPTO is completely funded by patent fees.

Re:Stockpiling prior art? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831266)

There should be a law forcing the USPO to pay all legal costs for BOTH parties every time a patent is overturned in a dispute.

Re:Stockpiling prior art? (2, Insightful)

tehshen (794722) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831644)

Sounds nice, but then both parties would drag the case on for as long as they can, because they get more money that way, leaving the actual case going nowhere.

They're not idiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831421)

They are following Bush's mandate to destroy public education.

Re:Stockpiling prior art? (2, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831746)

Why should Desire2Learn have to suffer because the USPO is a bunch of idiots?

Because without patents no one would innovate!!

Won't someone please think of the little guy inventors!!!

Re:Stockpiling prior art? (1)

Tuirn (717203) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831049)

Of course this will also take money and time. Our court systems are not free or fast. Hopefully, the challenger has some deep pockets. Software should never be patentable.

Re:Stockpiling prior art? (1)

joecr (922134) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831298)

One small problem. They are demanding a Jury trial. I don't have high hopes knowing that.

Can you say Trickle Down?Re:Stockpiling prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831961)

Every lawsuit filed and defense against these frivolous patents is paid for you, me and every other consumer. Do you really think that the legal slush fund just popped into being? The more legal costs there are, the higher the cost of doing business, and the higher the cost of doing business, the higher the products will have to be priced to cover those costs. And that means a higher cost of living for you and me! So, there is a *HUGE* problem with the USPTO just farting out patents and letting the legal system sort it out. It's their job to ascertain the validity of patent applications and ensure that there is a minimal chance of prior art before awarding them - and that's a job that they've failed miserably at and as a direct result - we suffer! Who holds them accountable? As it stands today, patents from the USPTO hurts our life-styles rather than helps, hurts innovation rather than helps and funds an ever growing pool of patent sharks and, almost as bad - more lawyers! There should be some constitionality in there to outlaw the USPTO as it stands today!

Another Wikipedia link (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831015)

Don't use Wikipedia links in slashdot articles. Why do such "intellegent nerds" use such unreliable sources that have been stampeeded by elephants [digg.com] . Slashdot has really hit the fan. Bring back the linux penguins, back when Mozilla was still 0.x, when Firefox was still a bird, when stretched anuses were the authoritative source.

2006 will be seen as the least nerdiest year of nerd history. Slashdot used to be a heaven for the nerdiest websites. Now it is just a scrape of google tech news combined with some vandalized wikipedia articles.

Do they have the right to patent it? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831034)

Blackboard was garbage until GWU sold them Prometheus, which practically makes up their Blackboard software now. Can you patent something somebody made without patenting and sold to you?
If Ford built a car and sold it to you without patenting it, could you then turn around and patent it?

Re:Do they have the right to patent it? (2, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831574)


Blackboard was garbage until GWU sold them Prometheus, which practically makes up their Blackboard software now. Can you patent something somebody made without patenting and sold to you?

Software patents are not patents on particular pieces of software, but on concepts. Blackboard didn't patent their or someone else's implementation of a CMS geared towards education, but the generic principle of such a CMS.

Salt Lake City kinda way? (4, Funny)

ToxikFetus (925966) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831052)

I'm confused. What is "a truly Salt Lake City kinda way?" Patent Polygamy? A beatdown from The Mormon Stick of Justice(TM)? Eating 6 saltines in a minute?

Re:Salt Lake City kinda way? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831224)

S.C.O.

Re:Salt Lake City kinda way? (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831350)

I'd initially figured they'd skied three feet of fresh powder before driving down to the courtroom to file, but I think it's just some Groklaw dork making his hourly reference to SCO.

Hey, compared to this morning's Ask Slashdot: "What is this World coming to? Do you think they went to far?", it's solid journalism.

Re:Salt Lake City kinda way? (2, Informative)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831664)

It harkens back to the days when SCO's lawsuits [wikipedia.org] were relevant. SCO filed the lawsuits in Utah, where they had the best chance of winning.

Not a Salt Lake City thing (2, Funny)

hotspotbloc (767418) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831073)

Hey, there's lots a reasons to jab at SLC but not because a company not based in Utah (but in Washington DC and Phoenix) filed a lawsuit in a Federal Court that just happens to be in that city. Now if you want to complain about the hookers on State and 400 South, well ...

Re:Not a Salt Lake City thing (3, Funny)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831284)

Now if you want to complain about the hookers on State and 400 South, well ...

What's wrong with them? Bad service?

Re:Not a Salt Lake City thing (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831313)

Hey, there's lots a reasons to jab at SLC but not because a company not based in Utah (but in Washington DC and Phoenix) filed a lawsuit in a Federal Court that just happens to be in that city.

Actually, acording to the complaint it appears to have been filed in the Eastern District Court of Texas. Which is interesting given that I think that may be one of the shopping areas for attorneys seeking to get a large judgement against a company.

A side note about the infringement lawsuit (4, Interesting)

Roblimo (357) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831078)

According to the filing, the party whose bogus patent is allegedly being infringed is incorporated in Delaware and has its primary office in Washington D.C., while the alleged infringer is a Canadian company.

But the suit itself is being filed in Texas, and the suit names statutes that give the court jurisdiction.

Does this mean they chose this court because it's run by Bushies who instinctively love monoplizers and hate entrepreneurs? Or is there another reason for this choice of venue?

In a logical world, you'd expect the lawsuit to be filed where one or the other of the companies has its HQ.

I know, it's not a logical world. The USPTO proves that. But this geographical silliness is another example of the general legal ludicrosities we USians now deal with instead of having sensible laws and courts.

Fah!

- Robin

Re:A side note about the infringement lawsuit (1)

mrgeometry (689087) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831173)

Maybe they're seeking the death penalty? /ducks

Re:A side note about the infringement lawsuit (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831225)

You know, it's not REALLY necessary to start screeching about Bush regardless of the subject under discussion. They have many highly effective medications for OCD these days. You should look into them.

You might also want to look into what political party receives the bulk of the contributions from members of the MPAA and the RIAA. Hint: it starts with a D.

Re:A side note about the infringement lawsuit (4, Informative)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831310)

The suit, like almost all recent patent suits, was filed in the E.D. of Texas because the district is a "rocket docket" - i.e. cases are quickly tried there. The E.D. Texas also has tremendous patent experience, as their judges have presided over several patent cases (which is rare in most other districts). The juries also tend to me more educated (and pro-patent/inventor) than in most other areas.

In a logical world, you'd expect the lawsuit to be filed where one or the other of the companies has its HQ.

This has never been the rule or law in the U.S. - a federal suit can be filed anywhere where there is personal jurisdiction and venue. As the allegedly infringing products are probably offered for sale or sold in the E.D. of Texas, the requirements for jurisdiction and venue are likely easily met.

Suits are rarely brought where the defendant has a large presence because juries and judges always favor the hometown team (imagine Toyota suing Ford in Michigan).

Desire2Sue (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831087)

When you find that you have to use patented Educational materials, it's time to go back to the ole drawing board and educate yourself at the local library & on the internet.

From Blackboard's website:
"For nearly a decade, Blackboard has been a thought leader in the e-Learning industry and has developed products that have helped to fundamentally alter how educational institutions and their educators teach and communicate with students," said Michael Chasen, CEO of Blackboard.

We were fundamentally altered, alright.

Blackboard sucks. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831095)

Not just the company, but the product.

When released their Blackboard 6 software caused all kinds of trouble in time lost and support at my college, to the point where a Bb rep came out to apologize to IT and the instructors. One instructor stood up and demanded that Bb make reparations for money spent in lost time.

My college also uses them for student organizations. But I'll tell you, Google Groups and independent hosting makes for a more effective solution. For one, a Blackboard cluster doesn't share session data across servers--each server maintains session data locally, which means you can't use HTML links to point to resources within Blackboard, from within Blackboard. In fact, you can't hardlink to a Blackboard resource, period.

The discussion board software is designed to be reset after every semester, which means you have to delete and recreate a Blackboard module each time, which leads to more work for instructors. The semester-centric view also makes the discussion software clunky for student organizations, which only reset once per year, if at all. I have to sift through comments dating back to September of last year before I get to recent material. Plus, there's no way to archive and search the comments.

The announcement mechanism doesn't support RSS, or even--as far as I can find--a way to send out emails automatically when announcements are created.

I could go on...I've been bending this software to my needs for a few years now.

I wish I could put my name to this, but I won't. I'm a little too paranoid for that.

Re:Blackboard sucks. (1)

Azmiik (899361) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831815)

As for RSS you may want to have a look at This [eaglebluff...prises.com] [www.eaglebluff-enterprises.com]. It seems to be a solid app though we have only limited testing done at this point. Mike

Re:Blackboard sucks. (1)

Hoplite3 (671379) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831881)

Right on. I've also been afflicted with Blackboard. Here, at Duke, it's down all Sunday for maintenance. I can't tell you how many times I was in on Sunday doing some grading and couldn't post stuff to the page. It's annoying. What kind of software needs a day of down-time per week? Also, as a grad student I had the dubious honor of also using it as a student. The navigation sucks, plus you can't link to your course pages. You'll always have to navigate down the tree of courses your in to find info on one class or the other. If I want to keep my courses as bookmarks in a folder, shouldn't your software support this?

Now, to find out their trying to use a patent to protect their crap ... That's balls. The "school social software" scene needs more entries, not fewer.

Also, I haven't had coffee yet and that makes me angry.

Blackboard vs everyone else in OS terms. (1)

doublem (118724) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831994)

I've had to interface with Blackboard before, and it's a piss poor LMS, especially if you want to get any data into or out of it without entering it all by hand.

Imagine for a moment that at the dawn of the PC era some jackass had built an OS that lost data on a regular basis, didn't run reliably and could be trusted with your information for just about as far as you could throw the computer it was running on. Then imagine that the user interface made DOS 1.0 look like Mac OS X by comparison.

Now imagine they patented "Process to control a microprocessor or other electronic device" and with the enforcement of that patent shut down Microsoft, Apple and every flavor of Unix.

That's what Blackboard is trying to do to the Learning Management System industry with this patent. One of the worst products in the market is trying to shut down everyone else with legal wrangling.

Mr. Moodle says: Don't worry! (4, Interesting)

jkrise (535370) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831101)

Here's Martin Dougiamas' comments on this topic... he's Mr. Moodle, it seems. http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=50597#23 1617 [moodle.org] very clearly states there's no need to panic. Surprisingly, Australia and New Zealand have already allowed this patetnt, though!

Re:Mr. Moodle says: Don't worry! (3, Interesting)

underpope (952425) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831258)

Since I hack at Moodle for a living, I honestly hope Martin's right about this. We used Blackboard at our University for a few years but gave it up when the licensing costs and the number of bugs and security issues made it prohibitive.

Re:Mr. Moodle says: Don't worry! (1)

weave (48069) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831497)

How exactly did you "give up blackboard?"

Politically that seems almost suicidal to try if faculty have bought into Blackboard.

Has anyone written any papers about this process?

Re:Mr. Moodle says: Don't worry! (1, Insightful)

DarkSarin (651985) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831741)

Yes, but the faculty have rarely "bought into Blackboard". Instead they use it while holding their nose, cursing and screaming, or with an air of resigned hopelessness. I've NEVER met a professor/faculty member who actually LIKED blackboard.

Clemson uses it, and it really pissed off the professors when it was purchased and the perfectly usable prior interface was abandoned wholesale (developed in house, and not too bad).

Moodle needs to have (if they don't) a "BB Migration Tool" that reads the BB database and migrates all the settings and whatnot into the Moodle way.

As a manager of a college's Open Source CMS (4, Informative)

edremy (36408) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831104)

I'll be interested in what they can actually do. We use Dokeos [dokeos.com] , which is headquartered out of Belgium. They don't have a lot of penetration in the US and I can't imagine the EU holding this patent valid, so I'm going to ignore this entirely. Moodle is out of Australia and the press release indicates a corresponding patent has already been issued there and it does have a lot of folks in the US using it. Sakai will be the real test, since they are totally US based.

I can't imagine this isn't a long term strike against the Open Source LMSs out there. There's no real commercial competition anymore in the field with WebCT gone. Desire2Learn, Angel and the rest are ants under the feet of the Blackboard elephant, but Sakai and Moodle are getting real traction- the real buzz at EDUCAUSE isn't at the BB booth but at Sakai talks, the college just up the road dumped BB for Moodle this summer, etc.

I had a long conversation with some BB salesdroids last year and they more or less admitted that BB's long term future isn't their LMS, it's the OneCard system. They get a cut out of every purchase made with it, and it's a real cash cow.

Re:As a manager of a college's Open Source CMS (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831297)

I had a long conversation with some BB salesdroids last year and they more or less admitted that BB's long term future isn't their LMS, it's the OneCard system. They get a cut out of every purchase made with it, and it's a real cash cow.

Yeah, and that thing's even more craptastic than their content management junk!

Re:As a manager of a college's Open Source CMS (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831684)

hey don't have a lot of penetration in the US and I can't imagine the EU holding this patent valid

The European sister patent application [espacenet.com] is still pending. I can perfectly imagine the European Patent Office (EPO) holding it valid though. After all, they already granted patents for e.g. submitting data to a database via forms [espacenet.com] and computer-based testing [espacenet.com] .

Blackboard is such a piece of shit (4, Interesting)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831122)

Aside from being slow and ugly, it is one of the buggiest pieces of software I have ever used. Whenever I go to check my grades it will say something like 10 points possible for assignment, your score 7, class average 11.2. This thing is worse than Diebold.

Re:Blackboard is such a piece of shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831414)

Just as true of WebCT Vista. A real pig. Memory issues, lack of functionality. My university ties me to it by not allowing me to efficiently move classlists into moodle and by claiming that moodle is not secure enough. What baloney.

Re:Blackboard is such a piece of shit (1)

Odin_Tiger (585113) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831865)

"it will say something like 10 points possible for assignment, your score 7, class average 11.2."

Maybe you're just the only one not sleeping with the teacher?

From a D2L Technician POV... (2, Interesting)

Vokkyt (739289) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831127)

I certainly hope that nothing comes of this. D2L isn't any sort of super rich business, and I certainly do not want to have to tell a campus full of neophyte Professors and students that they have to learn a new system. Heck, it's not like D2L exactly puts on a good front for the online learning aides that are out there. One of the most frequent calls that my help desk gets is a new problem has arisen with D2L.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel (4, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831149)

Public policy wonks love software patents because in Public Policy Wonk Happer Wonderland, systems that work on paper work in real life. What should scare legislators is that our companies have resorted to patenting so much crap like this. It means that America is getting lazy and dangerously short-sighted. I would argue that cases like this prove why America needs to introduce some danger, not protection, into its companies' environment. Danger makes people competitive and responsive to change. Security makes them complacent.

Another reason I won't use it (1)

jim_redwagon (845837) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831154)

I teach PT at a local college that uses this product. I haven't signed up for it as I thought it was clumsy and needless. For them to pull something like this, just further strengthens my desire not to use it and start asking questions why we do.

M$ ploy? (1)

cgicw (922609) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831155)

It's well known that Blackboard has received contributions from M$ and has been the only reason they were profitable. So, Bb buys out WebCT and now they are going to start sueing the other LMSs. For those that don't know, WebCT created WebCT Vista and the Vista product name is being changed. This has gone beyond being a mere coincidence.

Too early... (2, Funny)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831158)

I mis-read the title as "Blackbeard Patenting Educational Groupware" and thought that the pirate party had taken off a lot better than expected

heh - Yahoo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831172)

One of their mouthpieces has a Yahoo! email address.

Educational software makes me laugh (3, Interesting)

realmolo (574068) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831185)

Anyone who has worked in the IT department of a school/school district has had to deal with the HORRIBLE software that ripoff-artists like Blackboard manage to sell to clueless managers.

I would venture to say that the vast majority of software marketed to schools/universities is pure crap. And the best part is, it's MASSIVELY overpriced, too, since most schools get government grants to buy this stuff (and, again, the people who approve these purchases generally have no idea what the stuff is worth).

Screw all of the educational software companies. They're leeches feeding of the ignorance of stupid administrators and pork-barrel funding.

Re:Educational software makes me laugh (2, Insightful)

cgicw (922609) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831307)

While I agree to this in part, the main reason institutions go with Blackboard (or WebCT) is because the Open Source alternatives aren't up to par with features and, in most cases, don't have any contracted support that an institution can rely on. Sakai, for example, is also still an unfinished product. Who in their right mind would risk all of their online and distant learning to a system that isn't finished and lacks the level of support of a commercial product?

We've been using WebCT since '98 and continue to monitor Sakai's and Angel's progress because both products are something we are interested in, even if it's only to be used at the bargaining table with the new owner of WebCT, Blackboard.

Re:Educational software makes me laugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831345)

Open Source alternatives aren't up to par with features

Moodle has lots more features than either WebCT or Blackboard, and there are any number of companies that offer commercial support.

It's also much, MUCH easier for instructors to use.

Punishment for Blackboard (2, Insightful)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831198)

It's time to start applying the corporate death penalty to companies who abuse the system this way. Blackboard would make an excellent poster child.

Bad form! (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831200)

Making me remember the horrors of college... And the shit that was blackboard. It was always down for repairs and the online exams were trivial to cheat at.

What a crock...

Tom

d2l conference (2, Interesting)

feldsteins (313201) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831239)

I'm at the Desire2Learn User's Conference right now in Guelph, Ontario. The buzz here is that the whole patent is ludicrous and only serves to further D2Ls status as a major player in the LMS space.

Blackboard Admin (4, Interesting)

jethro374 (992720) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831265)

As a Blackboard administrator this patent disturbs me. The level of support that this company provides is poor on most occasions and for them to be able to limit any choice I have to use an alternative, esp. an Open Source option like Moodle, is bad for my school. I have a feeling this patent will not stand.

Re:Blackboard Admin (1)

jsupersample (751850) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831654)

Perhaps Blackboard and Desire2Learn woud BOTH like this patent to not stand. If it fails in court, it insures no one else will file a patent the LMS. Blackboard and D2L could be doing this to ensure a rogue company like SCO (or imgaine Microsoft filing such a patent) won't try to play the patent game with them. By choosing to file a patent for something with so much prior art, it seems like BB would expect for this to fail.

Oh the irony... (2, Funny)

Bazman (4849) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831308)

From the article's listing of the summary of the patent:

"For example, a lawyer may create a course in patent law online..."

I think the lawyer will have to learn patent law before he can be sure he can do this...

Dire Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831311)

What a totally dumb patent - a complete and utter joke. In a past programming life I was working on systems similar to this long before Blackboard had even set themselves up as a business.

I really hope this patent is overthrown as the nonsense it truly is. More importantly, I hope this backfires badly on Blackboard and they end up going out of business.

What does this mean for Sakai? (2, Interesting)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831332)

I work at a university where we recently adopted the free open source Sakai learning management system. Does anyone know if these patents will threaten our ability to use it? I know that Sakai plans to add Blackboard-like functionality in the future, so it seems likely that at the very least these patents will halt development in that direction.

Is there anyone here on the Sakai team, or other Sakai users who can shed some light on this issue?

Re:What does this mean for Sakai? (2, Informative)

axxter (128054) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831810)

as a developer working on Sakai at onother school I can tell you that the Sakai Foundation is taking this very seriously and examining the possible effects. There has been a lot of traffic on the lists and people have been contributing to the wikipedia list of prior art. As you can imagine many people involved in Sakai worked on that 'prior art' and are particularly offended by the patent.

In our case we're outside the US in a teritory where this sort of thing is not patentable so we're saffer than most.

I'm actually at the D2L user's conference now... (5, Informative)

citking (551907) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831457)

...in Guelph Canada. I'm typing this in a session about the new features in 8.1 :)

The CEO of D2L, John Baker, wrote this LMS while a grad student enrolled at the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada. The facts scream "prior art" and Blackboard really has no case IMHO. I think the strategy here, as John put it, is to sue D2L to a point where it'd be in D2L's best interest to avoid expensive litigation and just get taken over by Blackboard. The hidden backstory here is that Blackboard wants so badly to take over D2L but D2L doesn't want any part of that. So Blackboard takes the other, more scenic route: sue them into oblivion.

I can almost guarantee that Blackboard will lose this suit. The fact that D2L existed before Blackboard was even a gleam in the eye of its writer is 98% of the case.

In any way, John was so confident about his ability to win this suit he gave us all extra drink tickets! :)

Re:I'm actually at the D2L user's conference now.. (2, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831606)

The fact that D2L existed before Blackboard was even a gleam in the eye of its writer is 98% of the case.

As much as I'd like to believe this, 98% percent of the case is who can throw more money at it. I hope D2L is passing the hat around at the user's conference, because they are going to need a big pile of cash if they want to survive a patent-infringement suit.

I also hope that they're privately held; an infringement suit -- even a baseless one -- would be a nice way of driving the share price down low enough to make a hostile takeover feasible.

Just remember, when the RIM/NTP suit started, a lot of people said that was baseless, too. How did that end up? $680M, and the threat of injunctions? Facts are basically irrelevant in cases like this, it's the arguments that matter, and how you make them. A skilled lawyer can drag even the most lopsided, painfully obvious case out forever, in order to run the would-be winners into the ground financially.

It sounds like D2L is whistling through the graveyard; I wouldn't be so confident if I were them right now.

Suckfest (1)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831461)

Schools are the worst. It's like a suck contest. Blackboard sucks but it took tons of sucky college IT departments to make them so popular in spite of their suckiness. I recently spent several weeks working on a proposal to improve a local university's web presence and I was astounded at what a mess they had. IT was like a huge collection of buggy software with no coherent interface. So we spent >$40K coming up with a proposal/bid only to have them say, "thanks for the bluprint, I guess we'll do it ourselves". Right, whatever.

Why Texas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831470)

To shed some light on the decision to file in Texas. The East Texas Court has been handling patent suit for software and the like for many years. It has become a hub for these cases. I guess because we don't have anything else to do.

Overblown patent scare (4, Informative)

aricusmaximus (300760) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831610)

Most of the claims in Blackboard's patent are for concepts many LMSes had at the time (assignments, tests, lectures, grading, announcements, login, discussion area, chat). I was working with a competitive company at the time the patent was filed. The system we worked on was already in use by many colleges on the West Coast, with most of the features listed by June 30th, 2000, so most of the claims can be shown to be prior art.

This patent will not matter much. I don't see any particular reason to worry about it and here's why (IANAL!):

1. The patent relies on 44 claims, most of which can easily be shown to be prior art. (Ironically, WebCT, which was bought out by BlackBoard might be used as a counterexample of prior art).
3. To violate the Patent you would have to be substantially equivalent [yahoo.com] . Essentially this means someone would have to substantially rely on Blackboard's look and feel for providing LMS services.
4. The patent heavily relies on the concept of "files" - like our old system, which used flat files for information management (no, we did not and could not develop for the then popular (1998-1999) Sun + Oracle combo -- too big and too expensive for us and most schools at the time). An LMS using a Relational Database may be sufficiently different enough in implementation.
5. The patent differention seems to be at this part:

"The present invention also enhances the prior art by providing a flexible infrastructure for colleges, universities, and other institutions wishing to facilitate on-line registration and tuition payment. More specifically, the present invention can accommodate different billing methods, including, but not limited to, billing on a per-credit-hour basis, and billing on a per-registrant basis."

So, unless you are looking to build a Blackboard clone using a flat-file data management system including an integrated payment system, I really don't see anything to fret about.

(Disclaimer - As I said above, I am not a lawyer, and I certainly would love to see a more sophisticated legal analysis).

The real reason they're trying to patent this... (2, Interesting)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831614)

Comes from my experience at school. My university uses Blackboard to administer tests and quizzes, disseminate documents, track grades, etc. The administration has made a big push to have all the faculty use it, but their has been a big push back because Blackboard has been terrible to work with.

The biggest deal has been its tendency to erase grades, lose testing results, etc. It has been a nightmare for students and teachers a like. That aside, talking with the IT administrative staff, Blackboard has a tendency to defer responsibility to other problems, even though time and time again, blame clearly falls on bugs in their software. This annoyed a lot of people, so much in fact, that the IS department faculty have started an initiative to code a new one, from scratch, in Java.

So what would Blackboard's natural response be to customers deciding that they can create their own CMS? Why not patent it? Then they're locked into using their software! May the patent Gods strike this one down quick!

question about the lawsuit... (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831638)

Why are they filing it in Lufkin, Texas? I grew up there...I doubt they'll find a jury they like.

Well hopefully (1)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831661)

the patent only covers their incredibly ugly and hackish system.

So you know, GOOD systems can flourish

Can you say "prior art" (2, Interesting)

deadline (14171) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831740)

For the life of me, this is one of those patents that is so obvious and has so much prior art that is makes you think the patent office is a rubber stamp for industry. Oh wait.

TO: USPTO
FROM: Clue Stick
RE: Blackboard patent

Read this:

Online Learning Timeline [moodle.org]

Even Yahoo Groups could be affected! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15831788)

Reading the patent - it's clear that if an instructor set up a Yahoo group to upload files, give students access to certain file and the ability to upload their own files and communicate with each other - that it would be infringing on the patent! And yet, this has been something that we could do since the days of eGroups - can that be called prior art? Jeepers - I can see cases of prior art everywhere given the far reach of this patent!

blackboard is cool (1, Flamebait)

paughsw (620959) | more than 7 years ago | (#15831968)

I think blackboard is cool

Can we say "Prior Art"?!? (3, Interesting)

necrodeep (96704) | more than 7 years ago | (#15832049)

Considering in the LMS world - blackboard is barely a blip:

I am sure that companies like IBM, SumTotal Systems, Plateau, Saba, Oracle (iLearning), and Learn.com will have plenty to say about it. Especially since several of these companies (or generally pieces of these companies - since they tend to merge a lot in the LMS world) have had working LMS systems for far longer than Blackboard has been in existence.

Hell, when SumTotal Systems acquired Pathlore Software (which is all the way from Goul - they inherited more than 20 years worth of LMS code... we are talking mainframe days here - and I hear that a lot of that stuff is still running. Prior art abounds... this is a horrible patent anyway.
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