Blackboard and Patents

Over the summer, the Edu-blogosphere has been fairly actively following Blackboard’s patent for “eLearning”.

Alfred Essa’s Nose has got a pretty good summary of what’s happened so far, and he’s got links to a lot of others view points, though most are pretty much along similar lines.  From a UK point of view, it’s worth noting that US patent law doesn’t apply in the UK, though EU patent law does. Essa comments that though Blackboard have started the process in the EU, it is a slow process (5 years or so), and the initial reports suggest that the EU patent office feel that BB’s claims are not novel.

The BBC have an overview report they published when the claim first hit, with useful references, including one to No Education Patents – which covers the patent claim in plain English – and has a link to a comprehensive history of Educational technology – which tends to refute BB’s claim of novel ideas.

It’s a debate that’s likely to be ongoing, as I’m not a lawyer, I’ve really no idea if this is likely to stifle further development – if BB just sue anyone they see, or, if BB can’t sustain the cost implications – and the company folds. Or, if it ends up being a big hoo-hah now, but calms down in the future.

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