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All 44 Blackboard Patent Claims Invalidated 130

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the small-victories-still-victories dept.
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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All 44 Blackboard Patent Claims Invalidated

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  • 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.
    • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by liquidpele (663430)
        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...
        • by Lunatrik (1136121)
          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.
        • by eh2o (471262)
          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.
    • 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.
    • Only a year ago Blackboard wouldn't run without allowing activeX. Dosen't sound like they're much better off now.
    • 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.
      • 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.

      • Blackboard works on firefox at my uni (Bristol) - not that im defending it, its a depressingly slow pos.
    • 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 becaus
    • 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.
    • I fail to see anything innovative in Blackboard's product. See my journal entry [slashdot.org]. The bogus web app I mentioned was Blackboard's. I'm not sure but it's quite likely they still have patent rights for their crapware here in China.
  • by Yfrwlf (998822) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @02:54AM (#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.
    • by mrbluze (1034940) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @03:10AM (#22903330) Journal

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Idiomatick (976696)
        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: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mrbluze (1034940)

          Actually incompetent doctors generate business for lawyers too.
          Rule of Thumb: If you are a lawyer, NEVER tell this to a doctor.
          • by HiThere (15173)
            That was modded funny, and it is...but it's also true if you parse it correctly.

            "If you're a lawyer, never tell this to a doctor." should be parsed as "If you tell a doctor you're a lawyer, you'll never be able to get an appointment or medical service."

            That's still slightly an exaggeration...but only slightly.
        • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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 an
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Yfrwlf (998822)
        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 d
        • 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
          • by mOdQuArK! (87332)
            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: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          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.
        • 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.
        • So ALL patents are bad because SOME bad patents are issued by the current system? Read some HISTORY, my friend.
      • by pokerdad (1124121) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @06:29AM (#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?

        • by hedwards (940851)

          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 enou

      • by WedgeTalon (823522) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @07:53AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ScrewMaster (602015)
          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 t
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          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.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          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 dispensin
          • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @11:31AM (#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.
            • 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
            • by Belial6 (794905)
              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.
            • by xenocide2 (231786)
              I appreciate the fact that physicians don't often catch drug interactions, but isn't this something that a computer program could identify just as easily? Drug interactions are an interesting problem -- a doctor might not be aware of other drugs you're prescribed (though I think this is why they ask if you're on any other medications), but if you don't use the same pharmacy for every prescription, you'll lose that check!
        • by Xacid (560407)
          I say they just outsource this to taiwan too since they're already doing such a fine job at making our passports.... National security is national security afterall...
    • by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @04:05AM (#22903472) Homepage
      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Yfrwlf (998822)
        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 po
        • by Yfrwlf (998822)
          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...
          • Personally, I think that the inability to go back and edit posts is one of the great strengths of /.

            Accepting a few "oops, I really meant ..." clarifications instead of a set of complex rules on what a "small tweak" is worthwhile.

            Preserving the flow of conversation is useful for third parties (e.g. moderators and metamoderators), and it is difficult to do this if earlier parts of the conversation can be edited.

            Inserting a "not" or "un" to reverse an initial (and wrong) assertion, for example, could be unfai
      • 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,
        • 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.
          • 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 th
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Waffle Iron (339739)

          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.

          • 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.
        • A patent must have "novelty" - i.e. Be something which a person who is skilled in the trade wouldn't immediately think of if confronted with the need.

          When I look at patents like 20050023524 or 20040230959 I know for sure that that patent office isn't applying any such criteria.

          Then again, most years somebody slips a patent for the wheel past them "just for fun" and patents like 6368227 clearly show that the examiners drink too much beer at lunch time and just rubber stamp whatever's on their desk when they
      • by zymano (581466)
        Probably the money they make in the patent business has something to do with it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Yfrwlf (998822)
        "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 pat
        • 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.
          • by Yfrwlf (998822)
            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. :)
          • by AvitarX (172628)
            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.
        • by realmatt (1264206)
          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 th
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by jco (835870)
            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.
      • by jonbryce (703250)
        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.
    • Sure, software patents are lame, but maybe not the most lame -- I postulate that gene patents are the lamest of the lame.
  • 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.
  • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Khashishi (775369)
      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.
    • 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

    • by 19061969 (939279)
      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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, th
      • by mcdesign (699320)

        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'

    • by YukiCuss (960733)
      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.
    • by tclark (140640)
      It's available at the school where I teach. I considered using it, but after messing with it briefly I found it too cumbersome. Instead I just wrote some course web pages using vi and put them up in my personal web space at the school. So basically, I ditched Blackboard in favor of vi.
  • by foobsr (693224) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @03:04AM (#22903312) Homepage Journal
    .. 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.
    • 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 Knowle

    • by cvd6262 (180823)
      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 l
  • Have to chalk it up to bad luck.
    • by SeaFox (739806)
      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? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 29, 2008 @03:17AM (#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.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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 nece

  • I had all bust lost hope for this system of handling "IP". But this story brings me the slightest of hope.
    • by ajs (35943)
      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 u
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @04:03AM (#22903460)
    How do you get 44 patents on a black piece of slate?
    • 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.
    • by AySz88 (1151141)
      for (int i = 0; i 44; i++) printf("patent ");
  • by NZheretic (23872) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @04:05AM (#22903470) Homepage Journal
    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.


    • 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.
  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @04:48AM (#22903546) Homepage Journal
    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!

  • by mmcuh (1088773)
    Have the USPTO also fired the incompetent patent officers who approved those patents in the first place?
  • by The Second Horseman (121958) on Saturday March 29, 2008 @08:29AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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 u

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

System going down in 5 minutes.

Working...