Is it possible for a company to patent “online learning” and then sue other companies in the online learning business? I wouldn’t think so, but apparently that is what Blackboard is doing in a recent lawsuit against Desire2Learn.

Crazy. Were the people in the US Patent Office really thinking clearly when they have this supposed “patent” to Blackboard? Will this have negative implications for Moodle in the US? Let’s hope not.

Thanks to John Patten for this info and link.

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5 Responses to Blackboard patenting online learning

  1. Tim says:

    One more example of just how screwed up our intellectual property system is in this country. How can you possibly patent a general concept with multiple methods of implimentation? I thought patents were designed to protect specific solutions to a particular concept.

  2. Robert says:

    I blogged about this a few days ago myself (permalink below), where I noted that the patent was applied for in June 2000 (!), at which time almost none of the technology that assists online learning today existed. So at the time of application, there may well have been only one implementation of this concept, namely Blackboard. I guess WebCT was still around back then, but we all know what happened to it. Is there a way to challenge a patent that was applied for during a period when competing implementations were sparse, but which is approved when they are plentiful?

    My post:

  3. WITE Board says:

    “I’m proposing we set up an online group that will help coordinate countermeasures against Blackboard’s patents, and coordinate support for any organisation against whom Blackboard attempts legal action.”

    Check out

  4. al harris says:

    As an easy gesture for users to note prior art may I suggest using the tag ” vle/prior-art ” perhaps following it with a date tag “19** ” Items thus tagged may be tracked and found by everyone.


  5. […] “To say that the reaction was negative would be to understate the matter considerably. Donald Clark writes, “I’d start selling Blackboard stock NOW!” Leonard Low writes, “Blackboard’s claim of patent is both outrageous and repugnant.” Dave Cormier writes, “In the span of a couple of weeks the educational landscape we’ve all come to know and care about has taken an awful beating. It seems that DOPA is taking away our open ed-web and [Blackboard] is taking away our walled gardens.” John P. Mayer writes, “How can you access the ‘full power of the Internet’ [as Blackboard says] if you are dealing with litigation fears and limitations of choice as a result?” Wesley Fryer exclaims “Crazy!” and asks, “Were the people in the US Patent Office really thinking clearly when they have this supposed ‘patent’ to Blackboard?”   […]

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