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All 44 Blackboard Patent Claims Invalidated

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the small-victories-still-victories dept.

Patents 130

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "The US Patent & Trademark Office has invalidated all 44 claims in Blackboard's patent. While this is a non-final action [PDF], which means that Blackboard will be able to appeal, it does represent a win for the Software Freedom Law Center which had requested the reexamination of Blackboard's patent. It is not yet known how this will affect the $3.1M judgment Blackboard won from Desire2Learn."

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Hopefully this means my school will drop software (1)

12Iceman (790001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903248)

Blackboard's software is slow and bloated (due to their reliance on Java). I was really annoyed when my school switched from WebCT to Blackboard and hopefully this will give them motivation to switch to something else.

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (3, Interesting)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903260)

I'll drink to that. The version we use is slow, buggy, and completely unintuitive. For most ./ers that doesn't mean much, but when you're trying to guide a room full of PhDs through the process of posting assignments and grades it's a different story. I think Blackboards problem is that they tried to jam too many features in and didn't worry enough about ease of use and navigation.

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (2, Informative)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903982)

Not only that, but their software does *really* strange things. My company makes a firewall that does content analysis, and it was just returning a blank page on certain blackboard sections. Turns out, blackboard returns the content-length header *wrong* in several places and we had to adjust our product to flush out it's cache when it hit the end of the stream even if we hadn't read the entire specified content-length. Ugh...

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (1)

Lunatrik (1136121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905384)

Interestingly, in our department we use good old fashioned FTP.
Professors have logins - they can drag and drop word documents, excel files with grades, or whatever else they want (maps primarily, or related data, in this case.)

And it works fine. Students go to a website, download material, and bam. Done. Files can be uploaded to seperate servers. Takes *Far* less training than teaching *anyone* how to use the mess that was WebCT and now is Blackboard.

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (1)

eh2o (471262) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906858)

I also like how a minor version upgrade of Blackboard seemed to always require 6-12 hours of downtime while IT staff sorts it out. Real convenient in the middle of the semester.

Seems to be about on par with the Diebold voting system in terms of quality. Woe be the day their source code is leaked for the world to see.

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (1)

Tacobowl8 (1175465) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903278)

I fully agree. I hate blackboard... from the buggy sessions (timeout requires browser reset), to the incredible complexity that prevents most features from being used effectively, Blackboard is a mess. For each of the tools inside of the software suite, there is a simpler, free alternative. I really hope they are forced to re-evaluate their design.

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (2, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903298)

Only a year ago Blackboard wouldn't run without allowing activeX. Dosen't sound like they're much better off now.

Fight blackboard on accesibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22903336)

Try using blackboard with a screen reader. It is from satan. Whomever they sued should be gibven their entire company and make their horrible software die a quick but agonizing death. oh, and the mp3 is kludge

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (3, Interesting)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904356)

My school uses it and I hate it for a plethora of reasons:
1. No Friefox support. It's annoying that I have to actually use IE or something just to access one site.
2. This isn't a problem with Blackboard in an of itself, per se, but because teachers can post assignments there, they often feel the need to not mention homework at all and just expect us to check it nightly. For every class. This is sheer laziness. I'm a full time college student and I also have a part time job almost every night after classes as well as on most weekends. I don't have the time, motivation, or energy to double check for possible assignments every night. And it takes all of 10 seconds to tell a class of an assignment or to at least look for it as they LEAVE class.
3. It's slow and bloated, as mentioned above. Add reason 2 to this and it's an unnecessary waste of time.

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905122)

2. This isn't a problem with Blackboard in an of itself, per se, but because teachers can post assignments there, they often feel the need to not mention homework at all and just expect us to check it nightly. For every class. This is sheer laziness. I'm a full time college student and I also have a part time job almost every night after classes as well as on most weekends. I don't have the time, motivation, or energy to double check for possible assignments every night. And it takes all of 10 seconds to tell a class of an assignment or to at least look for it as they LEAVE class.
You should check to see if your school has a policy about assignments that covers this. Swing by the students' association and ask them, or wade through the schools' website.

Where I went to school, there were various rules to safeguard students from these types of unprofessional shenanigans from teachers.

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (1)

sneakydave (891514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906872)

Blackboard works on firefox at my uni (Bristol) - not that im defending it, its a depressingly slow pos.

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (2, Informative)

pedalman (958492) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905036)

At our school, Blackboard was set up with the thought of, "Hey, let's start offering online course content. We'll buy Blackboard and it will be our silver bullet."

NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!

When students started buying computers with Vista, Blackboard would not play right with them. They had all kinds of issues. It won't even play right with Internet Explorer at our school. I'm just glad I'm not the Blackboard admin.

Note to my college administration:
Ever wonder why the University of Phoenix is so expensive? It's because they attempted to take the time to design their online program from the ground up. They also hired the staff to make it work. That takes a lot of money. They didn't take the cheap way out by buying Blackboard and saying, "Now we are an online school." F$%^tards!!!! You would have been better off by using Moodle or Double Choco Latte. At least you wouldn't have blown all that money. Dare I say that you are once again "trying to polish the turd"?

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22905216)

At my college we use Blackboard products as our Learning Management system. When Blackboard won part of the lawsuit against Desire2Learn, several faculty raised the issue of Blackboard's behavior with administration. Surprisingly, administration was receptive, and we now have a committee to re-evaluate our use of Blackboard products and take a second look at competing products. Unfortunately, Blackboard's behavior is an embarassment for their customers. Also for those that are wondering, if Blackboard doesn't play nice with the academic community, or their competitors, do you think they always play nice with their customers (who are the administrators not the teachers). If you as an instructor are dissatisfied with Blackboard you may be surprised to find that administration may be more receptive to listening because of the lawsuit.

Re:Hopefully this means my school will drop softwa (1)

caramelcarrot (778148) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906020)

Here in Cambridge we use http://sakaiproject.org/ [sakaiproject.org] for our document distribution and collaboration - and it works pretty damn nicely - all the lectures are shoved up in folders for courses that you can either join or be invited to. I don't know what other features Blackboard has, but we also have separate systems for grade reporting and exam signups.

Get rid of the USPTO (5, Insightful)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903288)

The only thing this ruling should show to the courts is that the USPTO is a POS. They were the ones who approved those patents, so if all of them were invalid what does that say? That they don't search very hard for "prior art", is what it says to me. In this age of information technology, the only thing governments granting the monopolies more monopolies on things does is take more money from consumers and hurt everyone. We'd all have a lot more money and more free time to come up with new products if we weren't so overworked from stuffing billionaire's pockets. Of course the worst offense are software patents, the most ridiculous kind since it's extremely obvious making software to perform any task, which makes it much more of a patenting an "idea" than most any other kind of patent.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (5, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903330)

While this is a non-final action [PDF], which means that Blackboard will be able to appeal,
I love how lawyers help lawyers make lawyers more money. I mean, incompetent doctors generate business for incompetent doctors, but lawyers do it with flair!

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903432)

Actually incompetent doctors generate business for lawyers too. 'If someone does something, a lawyer profits' - Stella's Law ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebeck_v._McDonald's_Restaurants [wikipedia.org]

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Funny)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903668)

Actually incompetent doctors generate business for lawyers too.
Rule of Thumb: If you are a lawyer, NEVER tell this to a doctor.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903934)

Have you noticed Mcdonalds adds milk to your coffee before giving it to you, (I'm not sure about sugar I don't use it).

Strangely they don't do the same for tea.

I would think the Mcdonalds court case will have prevented many accidents due to the change in working practice by Mcdonalds. That is the value in that law suit, not the eventual cash award.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

fyrewulff (702920) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904020)

Milk? In TEA? What's next, creamer in orange juice?

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904222)

Milk? In TEA? What's next, creamer in orange juice?

It's a time honored tradition, [wikipedia.org] you HEATHEN! :-)

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2)

Kirkoff (143587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904982)

You mean this [orangejulius.com] is a time honored tradition.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905622)

Dude, let me introduce you to my dear friend Chai Latte: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chai [wikipedia.org]

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Informative)

Kiaser Zohsay (20134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904284)

I would think the Mcdonalds court case will have prevented many accidents due to the change in working practice by Mcdonalds.
This change in practice was not due to the court case, this is strictly marketing. McDonald's is trying to compete with Starbuck's by being more "full service". Also note the Iced Coffee available at McDonald's in some regions.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Interesting)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903352)

In defense of the USPTO, they did receive over 700,000 patent applications last year. Mistakes are bound to happen be it because of a sneaky attorney or an ill-prepared examiner.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe there are huge problems with the patent system and things need to change (and from the article itself, it looks like a small improvement at least is afoot), but you're statement is the equivalent of saying to a kid "Oh, you missed 1 problem out of 2000 on your test. You obviously don't know math and should never try again."

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Insightful)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903732)

All 44 patents isn't a small mistake to me. Patents need to be completely eliminated as they only help monopolies price fix whatever they want. I don't believe the world should be restricted for 20-30 years or whatnot while one company controls an idea that a billion others would have thought of, many of which thought of first, around that time period. It greatly slows technological advancements by preventing ideas from reaching everyone quickly and being utilized. Instead, everyone has to live in the dark or have lawyers defend themselves and such. If you eliminate this bureaucratic nonsense then ideas can and will be utilized by everyone quickly. There will still be plenty of incentives for companies to come up with ideas: they want products to sell to make money. Individuals, too, because where there is a problem/need, there are always those who will solve and conquer it. Besides, with the billions of brains on this planet running into problems and thus ways to solve them, do you really think you were ever the first to think of a solution? Chances are pretty damn good you weren't, and if patents didn't exist, the technology would be out much much quicker and would have the chance to benefit everyone, not just the rich or a select few. Not to mention, you would never have companies withholding products just because they compete with their existing products. The patent system has always been a failure, has always kept back technological progress, and will become more and more of a festering wound as the Age of Information Exchange progresses. Any countries that wish to stand up for true marketplace competition needs to ditch it's barbaric artificial restrictions on the sharing and utilization of ideas.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

infosinger (769408) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904662)

Actually, there are positives to the system as well. I agree that things went way out of control when software and process patents became acceptable but there are also many examples where companies would never recoup their investment in new technologies unless they had their "monopoly". A good example of this is the ink jet technology developed by HP and others. It literally took close to 8 years of investment before profits could be made. Who would pour 8 years of money into a hole knowing that as soon as you had a working product other people would just copy it. This was the premise for the whole idea of patents and is still valid. Unfortunately, other types of patents and "patent trolls" have corrupted this very noble idea.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905992)

You wouldn't happen to know of a reference to a peer-reviewed study that shows the validity of those "positives", would you? Every patent proponent I've met keeps saying that the patent system has positives, but they never have anything other than proof-by-anecdote.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22905066)

Um, there's a big difference between patent claims and patents. This is a single patent with 44 claims. That's a big difference from 44 different patents.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

webmaestro (323340) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906584)

There were not 44 patents in question, only one. This patent consisted of 44 claims. While 44 is more than average (the current USPTO rule is 25 total claims, instituted after this patent was filed), it's not significantly so. No where near as large as the combined claims of 44 patents.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22906756)

This is about 44 claims on one patent, not 44 patents. Only one patent is at stake.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (5, Insightful)

pokerdad (1124121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903824)

In defense of the USPTO, they did receive over 700,000 patent applications last year.

Do they do such a bad job because they receive so many, or do they receive so many becaue they do a bad job?

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906588)

Do they do such a bad job because they receive so many, or do they receive so many becaue they do a bad job?

That's an interesting question, but probably not the right one.

They receive so many applications because the game is set up in such a way that doing so is more profitable to file any possible patent than to only file patents over inventions which are likely eligible for a patent.

The amount of money that a patent troll can get through the courts without asking for an appropriate licensing deal is more than enough to compensate for the minimal cost of filing a patent which is ultimately rejected. And is enough to remove most of the incentive to ask for a reasonable licensing fee in the first place.

A much better way of solving the problem would be to fix the system so that the people filing patents can be held liable in the case where they've filed a patent which they knew or should have known wasn't eligible for patent protection.

Limit the amount of damages that the owner of the patent can receive to something which resembles a reasonable sum.

And restrict the court choices for litigation to ones which follow typical rules governing jurisdiction, not just the ones which are most likely to rubber stamp the plaintiff's claims.
Change the system to behave more like trademarks, if somebody isn't using or enforcing the rights, then the patent would have to either be sold to somebody that would use it or it would fall into the public domain.

And get the courts to start adhering to the laws, rather than trying to protect patents which aren't valid in the first place. SCOTUS I'm looking at you, business procedures are not patentable.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (4, Interesting)

WedgeTalon (823522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904110)

700,000 isn't so bad.

700,000 / 52 = about 13.5K per week.

Give that they have 5,477 patent examiners, that is a rate of about 2.5 patents per examiner per week.

There seems to be, based off of /. articles, a huge error rate. If a patent examiner screws up on one patent, that's about an 8% error rate for him. For comparison, my profession - Pharmacy - has, at worst, an error rate of 0.0925% [theangries...macist.com] . And we handled between 3 and 4 Billion prescriptions.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22905014)

you didn't take into account their backlog of millions of apps along with the fact that it's 5,477 employees... not examiners.
Just throwing that out there.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905046)

For comparison, my profession - Pharmacy - has, at worst, an error rate of 0.0925%. And we handled between 3 and 4 Billion prescriptions.

The difference being the penalties for failure. If a patent examiner "screws up", he just made the USPTO more money in the form of maintenance fees (the fact that entire swaths of technology are illegitimately locked down is irrelevant.)

If a pharmacist screws up ... well. There's a reason your error rates are so low, and I'm damned glad they are: like most people I take a prescription medication now and then. If Pharmacists filled prescriptions they way Patent Examiners issue patents, nobody would ever take a pill.

I say we give a newly-minted Patent Examiner some number of "points" when they start their careers. Every time one of their patents gets invalidated, they lose a point. When they lose all their points, they lose their jobs. Have additional penalties too, for example if you lose more than x points in a year you get passed over for promotions, etc.

Maybe that wouldn't work, I don't know. I can say that there needs to be a structure in place that tends to keep bad patents (and bad examiners) out of the system. As matters stand, the issuing of bad patents is rewarded and the Patent Office is perfectly happy to let the courts sort things out later. That's causing way too many problems to be allowed to continue.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22905092)

Moving 50 pink pills from the clearly-labeled big bottle into a little bottle and then ringing it up on the cash register is a bit different to reading dozens of pages of lawyer-speak and deciding if it makes sense and if anyone has ever done it before.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (4, Insightful)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906010)

If the patent description is hard to understand & difficult to verify its validity, then the default choice should be to NOT grant the patent. Then the patent applicant can fight its way through the court system to show why its patent is non-obvious & has no prior art.

That's a joke, right? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22905150)

Pharmacies take in a written description of precisely what to do, enter it in a computer, look for blinking text indicating a possible contradiction, then have a robot dispense the required pills into a bottle, stick on a label, and hand it to the customer with a computer-printed description of the side effects. That's nothing compared to what the USPTO has to do.

Pharmacists once required extensive training because they had to mix, compound, and measure the medicines. Today they are literally just dispensing pills under the direction of a computer. The years they spend in school are an artifact of a bygone era, and my guess is that most pharmacists will be replaced with soda-machine like automated dispensers in just a few years.

Re:That's a joke, right? (3, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905422)

Well, what you're saying would make sense on the surface, but when you realize how little training doctors are required to have in pharmacology, you'll gain a new appreciation for those pharmacists you just slammed. My father would have been dead several times over if it hadn't been for the pharmacist connecting the dots and realizing one or the other of his physicians had just prescribed a killer combo. That happens more often than you might think, sometimes because of a mistake, a lack of knowledge, or a lack of communication between doctors. Either way, there's a reason that pharmacists study pharmacology. They're more than just robotic pill dispensers.

When your doctor prescribes something for you, go talk to your pharmacist about your entire drug picture before you start swallowing those little pills. That can very well save your life, particularly if you have something like a heart condition.

Re:That's a joke, right? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906006)

I once attended a seminar conducted by a Doctor who after getting his MD and becoming a liciensed physician, went back to school to acquire a degree in pharmacy

Re:That's a joke, right? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906658)

This comment is interesting when compared to the threads we see periodically that complain about prescription medicines being advertised on TV, where other posters make the claim that only a doctor is qualified to understand pharmacology, and it is an abomination for anyone to question a doctor about it. It makes for an interesting dichotomy.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22904146)

Then every patent application which on investigation is found to have prior art, or be trivial/obvious and not worthy of a patent, should result in the lodger being charged $5000 if an individual or $50,000 for corporations. That should thin out the queue. A lot.

"Prior art" isn't the only problem... (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903472)

The real problem is the total obviousness of most of the patents they're approving.

Then again, they're getting paid to approve patents, not to reject them so should we be surprised?

Re:"Prior art" isn't the only problem... (3, Interesting)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903666)

That too, and what's more, the threat that companies use towards others when they get these patents often means they get their way. Since the official "way to challenge patents" means hiring a lawyer, I'm sure it puts off most businesses, meaning the only successful ones are often those with the deepest pockets. The whole thing is designed to make the rich richer, like so many other things in the world today. Patents end up being gobbled up by monopolies any way, and then defined with their bottomless pockets, so the net effect is always less competition. It's sad when artificial restrictions set up "by citizens" end up hurting them, and everyone continues to let it happen. If consumers only realized how much richer their lives would be if their governments stood up for competition in every marketplace, or at least didn't impose rules which create and help monopolies, I swear there would be riots.

Re:"Prior art" isn't the only problem... (1)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903674)

Defined = defended. :P I wish Slashdot allowed at least small tweaks of previous posts to correct errors. Oh, what's this lil preview button for...

Put down the dictionary (1)

sir_eccles (1235902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904292)

I really wish that the law didn't use normal english words like "obviousness" because time and time again I see comments like this that demonstrate to me (as someone who has worked in patent law) that the public (i.e. slashdot readers) don't know anything about how patent law works. When Patent people talk about "obviousness" they do not mean the dictionary definition! To make an obviousness objection stick you have to have a pretty close citation already, maybe only missing one feature of the claim (yes, I'm sorry you're going to have to actually read the claims in light of the description). Then you need another close citation with that missing feature and motivation, some sort of explanation why you want to put these two together. Motivation is not an ex post facto analysis along the lines of "oh, I could have thought of that". Preferably the second citation might actually say something like "the use of missing feature X helps wizzle the wozzle". Not forgetting that you might have to demonstrate somehow that the skilled man might actually be aware of what are sometimes two very disparate citations. It's not always as obvious as you think.

Re:Put down the dictionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22904470)

When Patent people talk about "obviousness" they do not mean the dictionary definition

So what? "Patent people" are supposed to serve us, not rule us. WE decide what's obvious (or should), not them! Personally, I favour just eliminating the entire patent system, but "patent people" would do well to remember their customers are not [suppopsed to be] the companies they're granting patents to, it's us. The companies they're granting patent monopolies to are supposed to be their adversaries!

 

Re:Put down the dictionary (1)

sir_eccles (1235902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904660)

I rest my case.

Re:Put down the dictionary (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904954)

Read the claims! The claims I've tried to read are pretty much illegible I supposed that they readable by someone "skilled in the arts", but I'm afraid for the sanity of that someone.

Re:Put down the dictionary (1)

sir_eccles (1235902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905142)

Not denying it. But you'll note I said "read the claims in light of the description". This means you essentially use the description as a dictionary to understand the claims. So if the claim says "...a computer..." you look in the detailed description where hopefully there will be at least one paragraph disclosing what they mean by "a computer". It might say something as specific as "a Mark II Widget Enterprises Wizzle Wozzle with Fubar attachment" and not teach or suggest that any other computer will do the job, in which case the claims are relatively narrow and infringement is limited to only that instance. However, it usually doesn't though and they often use the phrase "general purpose computer" which makes the scope of their claim a lot broader.

Re:Put down the dictionary (2, Interesting)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906546)

I really wish that the law didn't use normal english words like "obviousness"

Well, if the law uses a normal word, maybe you people in the patent industry ought to interpret the law the way it is written.

Re:Put down the dictionary (1)

Frank Battaglia (787673) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906942)

Unfortunately, we don't get to make that decision. The Supreme Court has declared what "obvious" means in the context of 35 U.S.C. 103, and that's the definition we have to go with.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22903716)

An underlying principle of the patent office is that they trust you. The examiner is not the judge and jury on the validity of a patent, that job is left for a real judge and jury. The job of an examiner is to help you along the process and to try to make sure you don't end up with a worthless patent. If there is anything wrong with your patent, if it is anticipated under 102, or if it is obvious under 103, you can bet that it will come up in litigation. In short, just getting the patent is not the end of the process.

Also, people here always seem to have some sort of anger towards the USPTO, and I don't think that anger is well-founded. Most people don't seem to get the entire point of the patent system: to encourage the exchange of information. In order to get a patent in something, you need to fully disclose how it works and the best way to make and use it. Without a patent system in place, everyone would keep their discoveries as trade secrets and no one would ever publish anything. Even if you don't want to bother to patent an idea you came up with, the patent system encourages you to publish it anyways, to make sure that someone else doesn't later file a patent on it. The end effect, everybody shares their discoveries.

Another common misconception, the patent system is not there to reward the first person to invent something, they are there to reward the first person to PUBLISH something. If you invent X and keep it to yourself, and I later invent X but share how it works, and file a patent, I will get the patent.

So in exchange for fully enabling anyone skilled in the art to make and use your invention, you get a 20 year (or 21 if you filed a provisional application) monopoly. And at the end of the 20 (21) years, the entirety of your invention is dedicated to the public. I do not see a problem with this. You could, however, argue that the patent term is a little long for certain industries (software, cough), where the time to market is so short, and ideas are rarely sat on for 10 years until they become economically feasable.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Insightful)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903882)

"In order to get a patent in something, you need to fully disclose how it works and the best way to make and use it."

And these ideas are then actually utilized by using them in products in the world, I'm sure? Oh wait, they aren't, because they're now patented. The real way ideas are shared is to actually use and share them alongside their products, products which will be much more common when there are no restrictions. If patents didn't exist, no one would feel threatened that they might violate a patent, and inventors would be truly free to both invent and then share their product. The entire world (or at leas those countries stupid enough to adopt patent systems) wouldn't be subject to the prices and control of a single company, but could actually utilize and share an idea. Ideas which are going to exist, and will exist more rapidly without a patent system, so that ideas truly get shared. When was the last time you saw a video on YouTube of a patent? Instead it's "Oh, yay, an idea we'll never see or get to use for a few decades because it's been patented so it's completely controlled and restricted by some monopoly." Everyone would "share in the discovery" if they actually had access and could freely share and use ideas without worrying about patents.

"they are there to reward the first person to PUBLISH something"

Their ideas will get out much sooner if they don't have to go ask a lawyer to search for them through the millions of patents to try to determine if their idea is "free" to actually use first. Patents slow the adoption of new ideas and thus slow the advancements that are based on those ideas by preventing them from being placed into the wild quickly. Even if they are found in the wild to a degree, they cannot be improved upon because they are controlled, and they certainly won't be as common as they could be so that they can be utilized properly. Companies can't sit on ideas when those ideas can be actually used by competing companies and placed into products, so companies in the absence of patents will actually want to use ideas and be first to market with them unlike the current system. In other words, as soon as products and inventions aren't controlled by big mega-corps, everyone will be able to create and utilize them, allowing everyone to have them, and making the quality of life better for everyone quickly, in turn allowing for more free time, and more time to find other problems and to come up with ways to solve them. Patents have put many countries of the world at least 30 years behind in technology, but there's no way to know for sure just how bad it has been.

I agree that the Industrial Revolution, for example, was put behind due to patents. Read Against Intellectual Monopoly [ucla.edu] if you're interested in these and other arguments against patents.

"And at the end of the 20 (21) years, the entirety of your invention is dedicated to the public."

You hit the problem right on the head. Making the world wait around for twenty years on someone's patent that would have and was thought of by a hundred or more others around the time, earlier, or later, slows technological progress and innovation for many of the reasons I've already presented. The problem is you're making them wait for twenty years. What all this comes down to is would problems be solved if patents didn't exist? Yes, I think there's a lot of proof that technology would move much more rapidly. One historical proof of such is how quickly software progress occurred before patents were added to the mix. What's even more amusing is that these patents aren't even used, because so many companies violate so many other companies patents that it's like a cold war in which no one fires on the other because they each have dirt on one another. They do, however, threaten the little software developers who aren't "part" of these big companies.

Patents are anti-community. In this age of information sharing, now more than ever, any laws which restrict the flow of ideas only serve to harm society and to line the pockets of wealthy monopolies, and the theoretical benefit gained by restricting them are dwarfed by the money wasted on lawyers and lawsuits and the time spent waiting for everyone to be able to actually utilize them as well as stifling the brains looking at the idea and thinking about ways to improve upon it to advance things even further. Science is one example of how things can thrive when there are no restrictions. Do you think science is where it is because ideas were controlled? Do you think the best scientists got where they are by coming up with all their own ideas? No. They shared with other scientists, and collaborated, until they built on top of the ideas of others. This is how science has managed to get where it's at today. If all these ideas had been controlled by laws and this collaboration wasn't allowed to occur, science would be 100 years behind at least. Ideas and advancements happen the fastest when they are shared and used freely without an overseer attempting to restrain them.

Having patents means a lot of everyone's money goes to these monopolies, a lot more than would go to them otherwise. Why do you think companies care so much about owning patents? Do you have any idea how much money you'd be saving if everything you bought wasn't royalty-encumbered, or if competition for those products actually could occur, if they are even being used at all and if they could be afforded by the companies who needed them? Believe me, it would be a lot. Our lives are much worse off because of the existence of patent law, among other similar laws, and perpetuating the lie that this is all a great thing for everyone isn't helping.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904088)

So patents may or may not (depending on the what it is) encourage the creation of new ideas/ways of doing things and inhibit efficient implementation of those ideas. So don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, but there's got to be some way to tell the difference between a worthwhile baby and a non-worthwhile one. Or at least a better way than the current system uses. Really my point is that you missed the point about creation/development of novel ideas.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904138)

I didn't miss the point, I simply believe that all ideas, or mostly all ideas, don't come about more quickly because of a patent system. I agree with you that the current one is incredibly broken at least. :)

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904680)

I think the real problem is that with many inventions the sum can be greater than the parts. he AIDS cocktail is a great example of this.

If it were not for the fact it was a life saving treatment, agreement could probably never be reached.

I think the patent examiners should be evaluated by how many patents they reject, and then get a negative if in later appeal a rejections holds as the wrong choice.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

realmatt (1264206) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904180)

I agree that patents in the software industry need some work. Take DVD decoding for example. The standard won't even be around 20 years before it is replaced, so the monopoly essentially lasts forever. However, before you put down patents in general, consider other industries. For example, drug companies spend billions of dollars on research. Imagine what would happen if these companies couldn't get patents on their work. Every competitor could simply start producing cheap generics, and the company that developed the drug would never earn back the money it invested in research. You could basically say goodbye to any advances in medicine. With the current system, there is an incentive to do research, and at the end of the 20 years everyone can produce the drug as cheaply as possible. You seem to think that patents prevent future development, but that is not true. Just because you get a patent on A,B,C doesn't mean I can't get one on A,B,C,D. Also, most companies are more than happy to license their patents, so it isn't like everyone is prevented from using an invention for 20 years. And if you want, you can feel free to infringe all the patents you want. Unless the patent owner is a direct competitor (thanks to a recent supreme court ruling) and can show damages, they have no case against you. And even if they can, you can probably find some prior art to invalidate their patent, unless of course they actually invented something novel, in which case they deserve your royalties.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (2, Informative)

jco (835870) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904690)

Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on MARKETING. And on "licensing" drugs developed by the National Institutes of Health and the universities and teaching hospitals it funds.

Re:Get rid of the USPTO (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904432)

Most of the world has a first to file system, but that is not the case in the US, which has a first to invent system.

Overly simplistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22907018)

I know one software patent examiner who told me: You can find prior art on almost anything, if you have the time (as an examiner) to search for it. Trouble is, the USPTO doesn't let their examiners take months to search the field for prior art. They get X number of hours. That's the reality. This ruling shows the system sort of works - with only X number of hours to search, obviously many patents are going to be granted when there was actually prior art, and the way to counter this is through the courts. (Currently.) The indication of a broken system would be if the courts couldn't invalidate the patents, or if they did enjoin alleged violators throughout the lengthy appeal process (which would tilt the field sharply in favor of big corporations).

Well... (1)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903292)

On the face of it, since the case against Desire2Learn was a patent suit, and that patent has been invalidated, then Desire2Learn shouldn't have to pay a dime of the judgement and can continue sales in the U.S.

Of course, since lawyers are going to be involved in this, who knows what will really happen.

Is there class that USES this software? (1)

HomerJ (11142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903296)

I've had many classes at two different institutions.

I've never had a class that actually used the system. At best, they would put a syllabus on the website. MAYBE they would even put a grade or two. And the classes that I had that put grades up, it would be like the first homework grade and nothing else.

For all the money schools put into buying and maintaining these systems, it seems like it's not for any purpose.

Re:Is there class that USES this software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22903334)

OHHH yeah.
Bond University lives off Blackboard,or "iLearn@Bond" as they call it.
Do they use ALL the features of it, no. but they do make us use the discussion boards (which are obscure and hard to use/find/live with), and i've done a few open book exams on it.

The key reasons they use them is so that all the work lecturers do isn't publicly available, and so that alumni can look up old lecture content.

Re:Is there class that USES this software? (2, Interesting)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903350)

Yes. It's fairly prevalent in University of Texas. I use the software to post grades to my students (not by my choice). It's such a pain to upload grades. There's a feature to upload grades from a file, but it requires doing it line by line and requires too many page loads. It's not terrible software; just not that good.

Re:Is there class that USES this software? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903366)

I've never had a class that actually used the system. At best, they would put a syllabus on the website. MAYBE they would even put a grade or two. And the classes that I had that put grades up, it would be like the first homework grade and nothing else.
My uni *loves* to use Blackboard and by use I mean the syllabus and occasional grades. It doesn't even do that simple job very well either... certainly nothing that merits anything other than HTML + javascript at most. What do they use? JAVA. yes JAVA of all things. If anything showed poor planning and design, it was the fact they based it on something that adds absolutely nothing of use while taking longer to do anything useful.

Re:Is there class that USES this software? (1)

19061969 (939279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903414)

My former uni (Univ Cardiff) had a big thing about Blackboard but the lecturers didn't like it at all. Neither did those students who had used anything else as a VLE. In our dept, we used a completely different system for our extensive postgrad courses which was much satisfactory (despite CSS being replicated many times in each page of code)

Re:Is there class that USES this software? (3, Interesting)

that_itch_kid (1155313) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903444)

Yes, the University of Newcastle (Australia) uses it (I'm a student there).

By the look of my Uni's website, it hasn't been updated since 2003. I don't know if there are security issues with this, or perhaps it's just that the copyright notice hasn't been updated with version updates.

In any case, my Uni uses it for classes. Lecturers upload all their lecture slides, tutorial questions, etc. onto the course's Blackboard section, our grades are given on Blackboard, staff make announcements for their course, there's a discussion board with a really annoying interface and a chat feature. I'm missing a few other things as well.

The user interface is probably about as hostile as it gets. I can't help but feel that whoever designed the thing actually wanted the students to feel like they've been trapped with the typical web design of the mid-90s.

I have Apache and MySQL installed on my home computer, and I installed Moodle to take a look at it. While I can't compare the staff's interface to the system as I've never used Blackboard's, it was certainly a beautiful system to use, staff members could customise the front page for their course, uploading resources was a breeze, as was adding things to the calender, etc.

The interface from the student's POV was equally as good - things are organised on a week-by-week basis (According to the discretion of the course coordinator), and so grabbing the lecture notes for the current week (Or for any week) is easy straight from the front page, announcements and new forum posts are easily seen...it seems to have been designed by people who actually care about their students and the time that they will spend using the thing. It's not so much a site for staff to post lecture slides, but more of a place online where students can (And are encouraged) to visit and chat and collaborate constructively with their peers...it's a breath of fresh air after such a long time using a stagnant system like Blackboard.

Sorry for the offtopic. Basically, I hope Blackboard goes down so that my Uni and others can consider viable alternatives.

Re:Is there class that USES this software? (1)

mcdesign (699320) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903534)

The user interface is probably about as hostile as it gets. I can't help but feel that whoever designed the thing actually wanted the students to feel like they've been trapped with the typical web design of the mid-90s.

I suffered through various version of Blackboard for years. The version numbers went up 4,5,6 etc but it really was just the same old crap. Blackboard's interface was/is just awful and it never got better with new versions. This was all made worse by the fact that I was supposed to be, at the time, making course materials for Blackboard.

I came to the conclusion that the makers of Blackboard just didn't care about the user experience and the educational value for the users. Mainly 'cos the users didn't write the cheques to pay for it. The customers for Blackboard are university management types who don't teach and have nothing to lose by foisting useless teaching tools upon everyone else.

Re:Is there class that USES this software? (1)

YukiCuss (960733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903664)

Regrettably. I used to go to University of Melbourne (Australia) [unimelb.edu.au] where it is still used today, and Monash University [monash.edu.au] now where WebCT was once used, but now has also been turned into Blackboard. WebCT sucked anyway, but now it's just ten times worse. Still, all the syllabus, lecture notes, grades, weekly tests are put up there, and it makes uni life just that much worse.

Re:Is there class that USES this software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22903986)

Wow...what did you study again?

The Mother of all Prior Art ... (4, Insightful)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903312)

.. was missed, if I scanned the text properly:

Quote [thinkofit.com] : "PLATO originated in the early 1960's at the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois. Professor Don Bitzer became interested in using computers for teaching, and with some colleagues founded the Computer-based Education Research Laboratory (CERL). Bitzer, an electrical engineer, collaborated with a few other engineers to design the PLATO hardware. To write the software, he collected a staff of creative eccentrics ranging from university professors to high school students, few of whom had any computer background. Together they built a system that was at least a decade ahead of its time in many ways." (emphasis mine)

Please note that they had a place for "eccentrics" back then.

CC.

What About Learning in Motion's Knowledge Forum? (1)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903526)

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education [utoronto.ca] of the University of Toronto contracted with Learning in Motion [motion.com] to implement the results of some educational theories with an educational client-server database called Knowledge Forum [knowledgeforum.com] . It was built on top of the ZooLib [zoolib.org] C++ cross-platform application framework, whose chief developer is my friend Andy Green [em.net] .

I think I first learned about Knowledge Forum from Andy at a party we attended in 1997, but I think it was already by then a mature product.

(While Knowledge Forum is proprietary, ZooLib is Open Source under the MIT license, and IMHO the best thing since sliced bread.)

Well I guess the patent is already overturned, but I doubt it's the last we'll see of educational software patents, so maybe Knowledge Forum can serve as prior art for future cases.

Re:The Mother of all Prior Art ... (1)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904568)

The TICCIT program was a twin of the PLATO NSF grant. Led by C. Victor Bunderson, it was later incorporated into an early LMS, but eventually abandoned. I was on an LMS committee at a large university with Dr. Bunderson before he retired. We often consulted his old, yellowing journal articles and his students' theses to generate our features requests. Even in the early 2000's, companies like Blackboard were still talking about implementing something almost like what he had running on IBM mainframes in the late 60's.

When Blackboard first asserted a patent on the LMS, the only comment I got out of Dr. Bunderson was, "The idea of patenting these old ideas in slightly new garb (and many confusing words) is extremely offensive to those of us who thought of them years ago, and shared them widely."

Oh well (1)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903324)

Have to chalk it up to bad luck.

Re:Oh well (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903416)

Yup things are looking black for them now.

If they don't win an appeal, their patent could turn to dust. They'd better do their lines and improve their software, or a chunk of their business could be erased from competing products.

Is the tide turning? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22903354)

The pressure has built for years. Nobody ever liked software or business patents. It all started with a court case that opened the gates and once that happened an arms race ensued. The very idea is absurd, and a whole industry with many reputations and careers has been built on defending the ridiculous during the last few years.

I found these remarks in the comments of TFA very interesting, and I assume they are genuine.

I head the group that runs Blackboard at our university and we are very happy, as an institution....Personally, I have a number of friends at Blackboard; I like them very much and I think they are good people, but I am glad to see news that the Blackboard patent claims will/might soon be invalidated. I am of the opinion that Blackboard should have never embarked into this nonsense, into this unnecessary e-Learning industry distraction, and that whatever money Blackboard would make out of it, if any, it would never amount to the costs and PR damage that they have inflicted on themselves. Blackboard has excellent technology, products and services. They should continue to compete and keep/attract customers on that, and not on wasting their/our time and resources filing patents and lawsuits. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of the end of this nonsense.


And this commentator is not alone. I hear from many people who once defended software patents, even those who own them and have profited, that secretly or even openly they believe they are immoral and wrong. The problem has always been that since they were allowed it's been a defensive measure to acquire them.

We have to go back to the source and overturn this awful mistake that was made. The world does not accept software and business patents. Proponents of it can shout and scream all they like, and maybe many will lose a lot of money they wasted on these things, but at the end of the day humanity will be better once we lay this monster to rest. I hope this is the start of a domino effect that starts to bring down all the bogus patents made in bad faith. Only those on real manufacturable goods should stand.

The "legislative intent" that never was... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22903912)

Nobody ever liked software or business patents. It all started with a court case that opened the gates and once that happened an arms race ensued. The very idea is absurd
The court's logic was based on flawed logic even back then:
As has now been unearthed [oxfordjournals.org] , they didn't properly check their sources, misquoting a Senate (by taking too few words, out of context, as their famous citation) which had actually said:

a machine or manufacture, which may include anything under the sun that is made by man,...is not necessarily patentable

There is hope (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903374)

I had all bust lost hope for this system of handling "IP". But this story brings me the slightest of hope.

Re:There is hope (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22907500)

The problem is that the system is still fundamentally flawed for patents that ARE valid.

They really need to radically shorten patent duration based on industry to the typical life-cycle of a product times 3 with current patent durations as an upper limit. For software, this would mean a patent duration of 1.5-3 years depending on how you measure. For most technology related to computer hardware, about 6-9 years.

There's no value at all in the patent system except to the applicant if the patents outlast the usefulness of the technologies involved. The goal is to reward applicants with a limited monopoly as a head-start, while releasing the technology to the industries that will use it in due course. In the 1700s and 1800s durations on the order of 15-20 years didn't sound so bad because product life cycles were at least 20-30 years long. Now, however, the software you used 20 years ago will have nearly zero value. There are better algorithms, better formats, better technologies that you really do need to use, so the patent holder is locking up the technology until there's no point in having a patent. That's not what the laws intended.

Now, if we take it a step further, I'd actually suggest that only a limited, fixed number of valid patent applications be granted, and that those grants be based on peer-review of the submitted patents based on innovativeness. I'd also like to see those patents be the exclusive property of the 1 primary applicant, and have zero transferability to that persons employer.

I just wonder (4, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903460)

How do you get 44 patents on a black piece of slate?

Re:I just wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22904464)

Chalk.

Re:I just wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22905008)

Considering the current state of the USPTO, I wouldn't put it past them

Re:I just wonder (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905052)

let's see there is 26 letters in the alphabet with upper and lower case that's 52 then there is puncuation so I'd say they must have missed a few.

Risk to USERS of open source from patent claims? (4, Insightful)

NZheretic (23872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903470)

As I stated over two years ago [slashdot.org] ...

1) Any patent lawsuit against a user of a software component used by major vendors will automatically result in those vendors lending legal support to reduce the chance that their own customers will also end up being sued.
2) Any patent lawsuit costs the suing party at least several hundred thousand dollars.
3) Any patent put before the courts is at very great risk of being destroyed by prior art.
4) Any payout awarded from a single end user has to be in proportion to value of the patented technology. The value of a single instance will could only be measured in hundreds of dollars, not coming close to covering the costs of the lawsuit to the platiff.
5) Patent lawsuits take six years to over a decade to work it's way though appeals.
6) Developers will release new software using a method that circumvents the patent in question within two months. This will be quickly adopted and by the time the first patent case is resolved there will be no further customers for the patent holder to sue.
7) The outrage generated in taking out a case against any open source will result in Groklaw [groklaw.net] and other groups putting the suing party and their lawyers under the closest scrutiny. You will not believe the level of bad publicity, let alone the the amount of prior art, dirty business practices, and legal suspect practices and even violation of statutes [rcn.com] that will be uncovered.

Lastly to quote Pulp Fiction, and then "we are going to get medieval on your ass."

Any IP case against users of open source puts the attacker at a far greater risk.

Re:Risk to USERS of open source from patent claims (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904808)


4) Any payout awarded from a single end user has to be in proportion to value of the patented technology. The value of a single instance will could only be measured in hundreds of dollars, not coming close to covering the costs of the lawsuit to the platiff.


Tell that to RIM.

Re:Risk to USERS of open source from patent claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22904868)

RIM was not an end user.

Where to Send Your Check (5, Informative)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903546)

You can donate online via Google Checkout, Network for Good or PayPal from the Software Freedom Law Center's donation page [softwarefreedom.org] , or mail a check to:

Software Freedom Law Center
1995 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10023

They're a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so if you're in the US, your contribution will be tax-deductible.

It's expensive to fight lawsuits. Vote with your wallet!

So... (1)

mmcuh (1088773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22903690)

Have the USPTO also fired the incompetent patent officers who approved those patents in the first place?

Can someone explain the basis for the patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22904276)

I RTFA, I read the comments, I searched a little, but yet I still know nothing about this article. It's like reading a sentence with no subject. I don't know what it's ABOUT. I gather that Blackboard makes some kind of software for use in education. What is the basis for patent claims? Where are they using these patents? Who is infringing?

Re:Can someone explain the basis for the patents? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905194)

One of the patents covered have participants in the system able to assume multiple roles, such as have admin privileges, instructor privileges and student privileges. This would be necessary to allow an department head to be able to set-up his/her department and still be able to be an in the department as an instructor and then to check things as a student or to take a course in a different field for personal enrichment or continuing education.

One problem is patent number 1,000,000 is on bias-ply car tires circa 1900, and is 3 pages long, in a patent now 3 pages will not even contain the abstract.

Blackboard was hated before the patent issue (2, Informative)

The Second Horseman (121958) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904298)

If you talked to CIOs at schools and IT staff, they've hated Blackboard for years. The software was often junk. Early versions of 6 had significant gradebook problems, and there were a handful of security problems that were just mind-blowing. Of course, they mark their release notes with the list of fixes "proprietary and confidential", which never wins you friends. No, in addition to the scummy salespeople (an especially weasel-like variety) and ridiculous, ever-increasing prices (often mid-year, but late enough to make it hard to jump ship), the support was just terrible. Really, really bad. They didn't really know the software, didn't know the platforms. Expected you to actually build multiple test environments to replicate the problem (if the problem was between even point releases) for them to remotely connect to - they didn't have internal access to test system (this was in the 6.x timeframe). Also, they'd come out with minor (or not-so-minor) releases in mid-semester and tell you that they were required updates to get support. You can't upgrade an LMS in mid-semester at most institutions. Point releases that makes major changes to the database schema and structure are less than attractive, either.

A number of small and medium sized schools are going to Moodle and customizing it for their environment (for example, incorporating home-grown services into it, etc). Moodle's been growing by leaps and bounds the last year or two, and I expect it's going to keep growing. Sakai's harder to implement, unless you have a herd of Java developers at your disposal. Faculty always want significant local customization.

Re:Blackboard was hated before the patent issue (2, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904772)

We use Blackboard (BB) where I teach, and I can attest, it is truly a roiling piece of shite. Everything you said is true, and my fellow professors spend more time developing workarounds to avoid using BB than they do developing the work they need to work with BB. Why? Because working WITH BB sucks in horrible horrible ways, and while the work arounds are "more work" at least they're convenient and maleable.

Gradebook is a NIGHTMARE. I mistyped one of the calcs (23 instead 32 percent) and didn't catch it until after midterm, and when I went to reset it, it blew the grades to pieces. It was for a HUGE class (150 students) and so I had to re-grade and personally re-calc 150 grades (midterm, paper, final exam). I used Excel to help, but I HATE EXCEL and it wasn't fun having to deal with something that should not have been hard to re-finagle easily. Total nightmare.

I am hoping this ruling will lead to better software for me. As it is, avoid BB like the plague...

RS

From a local newspaper (1)

kbahey (102895) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904524)

Desire2Learn is local here in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

They were devastated by the earlier court ruling, and now this?

Here is an article [therecord.com] from the local newspaper on the topic.

Note: RIM is also local here, and NTP's affair with them was closely followed.

Time to revamp how patents are issued, or have the USPTO pay the court damages due to wrongly issued patents.

Re:From a local newspaper (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905312)

In the US a patent isn't a "Done Deal", it's an opinion that an application isn't obviously defective without looking too hard, but any difficulties are a matter for the courts anyways.

Blackboard sucks (1)

CodeSlave (207133) | more than 6 years ago | (#22904938)

As a later college attendee, I like to take online course more then in class, classes. Whenever the class is on Blackboard I shake my head because I know that the system will generally be intrusive and annoying.
I really like Moodle though. That generally works really well.

The "appeal" process will allow ... (1)

Jerry (6400) | more than 6 years ago | (#22905736)

time for the proper people to be paid off, thus assuring the continuation of the patent.

umm (1)

marafa (745042) | more than 6 years ago | (#22906514)

note my lack of ignorance due to the fact that i m not an american citizen but .. cant somebody like d2l sue the uspto for their performance?
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