Monday, March 31, 2008

preliminary decision to reject Blackboard patent claims

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has a lengthy article summarizing last Friday's preliminary decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that rejects all 44 claims Blackboard Inc. made regarding a controversial patent it was granted in 2006.

The patent in dispute involves a course-management system in which a single user with a single log-on could have multiple roles in multiple classes. For example, someone who was a student in one course and a teaching assistant in another could log on once and get different levels of access to all the course materials.

Desire2Learn and its supporters have argued that the patent should not have been granted because similar technology existed in 1999, when Blackboard applied for the patent.

The patent office awarded the patent in 2006, and within months, Blackboard sued Desire2Learn for infringement. However, the patent office, in its re-examination, cited several examples of "prior art," or previously available technology, that was similar to what Blackboard claimed to have invented.

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