Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education Patents The Courts

Blackboard Patent Invalidated By Appellate Court 142

Posted by timothy
from the mechanism-for-doing-stuff-described-herein dept.
Arguendo writes "A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Blackboard Inc.'s patent on a learning management system is invalid in light of the inventors' own prior software product. We have previously discussed the patent and Blackboard's trial court victory against Desire2Learn. It's not completely over, but this is almost certainly the death knell for Blackboard's patent. If so inclined, you may read the appellate court's decision here (PDF) or on scribd."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Blackboard Patent Invalidated By Appellate Court

Comments Filter:
  • Well.. Actually... This will have little bearing on overall patent trolling and issues. But at least there's a court out there that's paying attention.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Desire2pwn

  • by realmolo (574068) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @11:37AM (#28853339)

    Along with the patent examiners, of course.

    If you look at the patents that Blackboard has, they basically make it *impossible* to have any kind of "intranet" site at an educational institution. Everything (almost literally everything) that you would want to have/do on a school's intranet, Blackboard has a patent for.

    It's fucking ridiculous, and if their patents are invalidated, everyone in the education industry will RUN AWAY from their product, which sucks.

    • by Admodieus (918728) <.john. .at. .misczak.net.> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @11:40AM (#28853411)
      I want to run away from their product even if the patents are not invalidated. They're all pieces of crap that rely heavily on Java applets and fail to support updates for browsers when they come out, like Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, etc. I remember two years ago, there was a period of time where they told users not to upgrade to Firefox 2 or IE7 because they didn't have support lined up for them yet.
      • by cvd6262 (180823) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @12:51PM (#28854631)

        I want to run away from their product even if the patents are not invalidated.

        Yeah, we did run away and for years my little college has been happily using a competitor's product... Until this last year when Bb bought them out.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          A brief explanation of that behavior, Admodieus:

          I worked with Blackboard for awhile, although not directly for them, and this was mostly attributed to development flat-out refusing to even test compatibility with a beta product (Firefox 3 and IE8 come to mind from recent experience), since they didn't want to have to muck about with the code to get it to work, and then muck about with it even more when a given browser went from Beta to GA. As soon as any beta browser was made GA, development got to work on

          • by CaseyB (1105)

            this was mostly attributed to development flat-out refusing to even test compatibility with a beta product (Firefox 3 and IE8 come to mind from recent experience), since they didn't want to have to muck about with the code to get it to work, and then muck about with it even more when a given browser went from Beta to GA.

            Then they suck. That's how the game is played when you're a large company building a browser based application for wide release. They should have been testing on the alphas and betas, and ha

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I rather hate their stuff as well. Their Java applets tend to crash a few times a week for me. I'm glad when they do, because everything loads considerably faster afterwards. It seems like whatever they have as their failsafe system works far better than their Java implimentation.
      • I want to run away from their product even if the patents are not invalidated. They're all pieces of crap that rely heavily on Java applets and fail to support updates for browsers when they come out, like Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, etc.

        I remember two years ago, there was a period of time where they told users not to upgrade to Firefox 2 or IE7 because they didn't have support lined up for them yet.

        Amen. And their latest incarnation (at least, the latest that FSU is using) is so bloated that the computers at my testing center (not bleeding edge, but not 10 years old either) end up thrashing so hard that it takes me 45 seconds between typing and having it show up on the screen.

        It makes the exams for my upcoming "Statistics For Scientists/Engineers" scare me even more than the class itself does...

    • by fbjon (692006)
      Wait, so does Moodle have license issues with Blackboard?
    • by edremy (36408) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @11:43AM (#28853463) Journal
      Everybody already is running away. Check out the market share numbers- BB is on a serious decline, with most small schools like the one I work for ditching them for almost anything else.

      Sadly, we went for Angel, which has been bought out by BB so we need to do another switch. BB will be among the possible options we'll be putting out there for the committee, but given our previous miserable experience with them I'll be amazed if we pick it over either Moodle or Sakai.

      • by db32 (862117)
        I don't know anything about the backends, but I can say as a student Angel has been my favorite setup that I have had to deal with thus far. My least favorite was a homegrown thing described as a "clone" of BB and if the normal BB product is anything like it then it should deserve to die a horrible and painful death.

        However, there have been plenty of good products ruined by shitty companies.
      • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:54PM (#28856739)

        If you're seriously considering replacement options, I'm the designer and developer for another LMS that is AICC/SCORM compatible (single-SCO courses at this time) and includes registration and tracking for classroom-based courses in addition to the online stuff. Communication is pretty much one-way though, the students don't have a way to submit materials to instructors. The feature set is purely customer-driven, every feature the LMS has is there because someone asked for it. Anyway, I'm currently adding features to version 7 of the LMS, which I redesigned and rewrote from the previous versions to run on a PHP/MySQL platform and make use of the ExtJS framework for the interface (so it's heavy on Javascript). Our largest client installation has just over 70,000 total users and about 54,000 active students, with 350,000 training records representing 177,000 hours of tracked training. So, if you're in a position to make recommendations, you can find our website at tracorp.com. The website is being redesigned and focuses almost entirely on courseware production as opposed to the LMS software, but you can contact us through the site if you want to schedule an LMS demo.

    • I can recommend Eben Moglen's keynote and the discussion with Matthew Small (2006 Sakai conference).
      http://confluence.sakaiproject.org/display/CONF06/Keynote+--+Eben+Moglen [sakaiproject.org]
      http://confluence.sakaiproject.org/display/CONF06/Lunchtime+Discussion+with+Eben+Moglen+and+Matthew+Small [sakaiproject.org]

    • by PPH (736903)
      Nah. Just make them stay after class and clean the erasers.
  • Hurry!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @11:39AM (#28853371)
    Quick, post your comments on slashdot before Blackboard patents a method for providing an interface that allows snarky and/or sarcastic comments to forum posts!!!
  • Yay. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @11:39AM (#28853389) Journal
    As a prof, I hate blackboard. It is the buggiest, stupidest, slowest education software I have ever had the misfortune to use.

    Hopefully this will kill them, and force TPTB to get something that actually works.

    • Re:Yay. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cream wobbly (1102689) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @12:02PM (#28853753)

      I taught a course a while back where I directed students to refer to coursenotes for other courses, written by other lecturers, having made those lecturers aware I was doing so. A week later, nobody had read around the subject using notes from two lecturers in particular. Not being the most forthcoming in terms of volunteering why they hadn't done something, I asked them why, and my students informed me that Blackboard did not allow them to read other lecturers' coursenotes. Because they weren't enrolled on those other courses.

      Speaking to the other lecturers, it turns out that it would mean they would have to jump through hoops to allow "non enrolled" students to read those notes via Blackboard. In fact, I myself could not read those notes. So we just enrolled me, and I copied and pasted to my own Intranet pages.

      Now, I can imagine why in some situations you might want to "protect" readers or information -- such as in a hospital or a business situation, but this was at a friggin' university, where "reading around" is the lifeblood of learning. Why on earth is it the default to hide coursenotes from students who are not enrolled on a particular course?

      Of course, the best bit was that the Unix-based Intranet hosted the best quality notes anyway. Plus, it worked in all browsers.

      I also remember a competition to rename "Blackboard". Some of the suggestions were sensible and didn't show much imagination (kinda like Microsoft products): "Chalkboard", "Whiteboard", "Intranet". Others were appropriate, and described the product more fully. However, you wouldn't say them in polite company.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dickens (31040)

        Hell, I've taken blackboard courses where you had to type in a friggin' license number from the back of the $125 paper-back textbook in order to have the "right" to read the "supplementary material" on the publisher's web site (that was required reading). The whole course was bought pre-packaged and plugged in to blackboard. Boy did it suck, too. Can't imagine what the prof in question was getting paid for.

      • Why on earth is it the default to hide coursenotes from students who are not enrolled on a particular course?

        Perhaps because universities would like to prevent people from auditing courses that they didn't pay for.

        Of course, you're right in that BB should have made it easier to set up document sharing between courses, but there are educational institutions that have a legitimate interest in preventing/limiting that behavior.

        • There is more to auditing than reading the course notes. Things like attending labs and lectures, and getting credit for the audit on the transcripts. Some courses legitimately hide course material from the general public, usually professional courses. But the default should not be to hid the course notes. This is the reason that I do not use the blackboard product at my institution for my classes. I have just used a regular website. Our faculty is moving to moodle this year, so we will see how that goes.
        • If the university doesn't want you auditing a class you didn't pay for, then they won't let you log in to the system and/or see that class. This has nothing to do with typing a code from the text book. That is all at the publisher level.

          The publishers provide universities with course packs called cartridges. I don't deal with blackboard directly, so these may or may not have a charge associated with them. Considering we are talking about blackboard they probably cost a pretty penny.

          The publishers th

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CAPSLOCK2000 (27149)

          As a Dutch student I have the right to follow any lecture at any university in the country. Due to Blackboard I cannot even access last years lecture notes of my own study, let alone those of any other study. Hell, I can't even look up the schedule.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by PeterBrett (780946)

          Perhaps because universities would like to prevent people from auditing courses that they didn't pay for.

          Are you kidding me? It's called a "university" for a reason.

          As a datum: at the university I attended (which, coincidentally, has produced several of the greatest polymaths in history), once you are at the university, you are permitted -- encouraged, even -- to attend any lecture courses that interest you or may assist you in your studies. (Of course, that doesn't apply to lab experiments or experimental coursework).

          If you suggested to someone there that the university should start excluding students from co

          • As a datum: at the university I attended (which, coincidentally, has produced several of the greatest polymaths in history), once you are at the university, you are permitted -- encouraged, even -- to attend any lecture courses that interest you or may assist you in your studies.

            The university I attended wasn't so great. (One of our interior design students went on to be a successful singer.) But it was the same at our place: we were given details of other upcoming lectures not on our course. Several times, I've gone to key lectures from other courses, and sat with my own lecturers. (We weren't always the bad kids at the back, either...)

            That's what primed me for the style of teaching that referred to other lecturers' coursenotes. It's just an opportunity too valuable to pass up.

            The fact that there are institutions with quite such a mercenary approach to their students doesn't say much for their academic credentials, frankly.

            Ind

      • by Jaysyn (203771)

        Have you posted this before in another discussion? I am having the wildest deja vu right now, right down to your sig.

    • As a prof, I hate blackboard. It is the buggiest, stupidest, slowest education software I have ever had the misfortune to use.

      Hopefully this will kill them, and force TPTB to get something that actually works.


      Have you had a look at Moodle [moodle.org]? I came across it the other day when I was evaluating Drupal for my website.
      • thanks! I'll check it out. There is also an IT stumbling block - the folks who implement Blackboard will be the ones to shuffle to Moodle, and given how entrenched Blackboard and all of its sucktasticness (sp?) in my school's IT managerial class, I don't know if I would even be allowed to use Moodle parallel to Blackboard, much less in place of...

        Sigh.

        • by dkf (304284)

          thanks! I'll check it out. There is also an IT stumbling block - the folks who implement Blackboard will be the ones to shuffle to Moodle, and given how entrenched Blackboard and all of its sucktasticness (sp?) in my school's IT managerial class, I don't know if I would even be allowed to use Moodle parallel to Blackboard, much less in place of...

          Sigh.

          We have both Blackboard and Moodle deployed at my employer. Well, let's be more accurate. We've outsourced the BB deployment to BB themselves, and I'm only aware of one (admittedly large) school using Moodle. BB is (according to my spies) slow, irritating and vastly expensive (as well as requiring extra file servers deployed by us to host "large" files like short videos) and the users of Moodle seem fairly satisfied with it.

          For my teaching, I'm sticking to using plain old HTML and PDFs hosted in a normal we

  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @11:40AM (#28853413) Homepage

    A system and methods for implementing education online by providing institutions with the means for allowing the creation of courses to be taken by students online, the courses including assignments, announcements, course materials, chat and whiteboard facilities, and the like, all of which are...

    lol.

  • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpc.yahoo@com> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @11:42AM (#28853433) Homepage

    Because, as most /. readers tend to believe, "information wants to be free", and the Blackboad patent was so directly a contravention of that idea that even their own case filings ignored the idea of courseware to focus on a single aspect -- allowing a student who is also a teacher in another role -- to use one login. Then they used a faulty decision in that court to target their competitor -- who made no infringing claim.

    The appeal judges state "On the merits, we hold that those claims do not contain a âoesingle loginâ limitation and that the district courtâ(TM)s contrary interpretation of the claim language in its JMOL ruling was error" (I think they meant "erroneous").

    The problem is later where the Appeals court did not consider whether or note Blackboard's patent was wholely discardable because they did NOT rule as to whether or not the single login multiple role functionality is OBVIOUS or not.

    Prior art anyone?

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      Because, as most /. readers tend to believe, "information wants to be free"

      When information isn't free, neither are you.

  • The fact that anyone pays to use their software saddens me. It's absolutely awful. They're making a killing too. It's becoming the standard educational institution package, mostly because all the other universities use it. Their "clustering" solution is an absolute joke. They just recently started supporting 64-bit jvm's. That means that until recently if you wanted to scale, you had to launch multiple 1GB VM's and load balance requests yourself. The frequency, severity and apathy of the bugs is stun

    • by BitHive (578094)

      Just wait until you want to start doing serious Moodle development! It may be better than Bb but it's still awful.

      • Which makes me wonder -- why is it that LMSs in general seem to suck so much? I mean, the basic functionality isn't hard; it's the kind of thing that lots of database-driven web apps do. It seems to me that most schools would be better off paying some junior- and senior-level CS students to roll their own than using pretty much any of the prepackaged "solutions," whether proprietary or OSS. Are there hidden complexities that I'm just not seeing? Can anyone who's ever worked on an LMS explain what some o

        • by MikeURL (890801)
          I'm looking at BB right now. It has some "broadcast" features built in that are pretty basic (ability to send emails to selected classmates or to all). There is a gradebook, a calendar, some collaboration tools...I mean, none of this stuff really strikes me as a programming challenge.

          I do think it has an impressive number of tools all in one place. What I don't see are any real-time videoconferencing options. It could be that this is just not enabled at my site but that seems to me to be the one are
        • by edremy (36408)
          There are actually quite a few hidden bits that do make it harder.

          Here's an obvious one- how's your web application's Arabic support? You do have a full UI translation in Arabic, right? Also Russian, Chinese and Japanese? Professors teaching those courses want their sites in those languages. Moodle has language packs for 81 different languages

          SCORM/IMS support is another one- the specs are detailed and exacting, but without it you can't access a lot of prepackaged stuff.

          I recently read a brief code

          • Ah, full-scale language support is an aspect I hadn't thought of, and yeah, I can see how that would add a lot of complexity. Thanks; that's the kind of specific problem I was looking for.

            As for SCORM, at first glance I have to say that it looks like an absurdly complex specification for something that ought to be a lot simpler. Which is a problem not unique to LMSs, of course.

            • Full-scale language support isn't that much more difficult. All it takes is making sure there are no plaintext strings in your html output - every UI string is run through the translation engine (and cached). Strings in the translation table typically look like, "{0} days remaining" - then you just roll the entire table out to a third party (or volunteers) who can translate.

              For RTL languages, you may need to include an additional stylesheet or two.

              The hard part is converting an app with tons of static strin

        • by tsm_sf (545316)
          Can anyone who's ever worked on an LMS explain what some of the challenges are?

          Well, I worked on modifying CMS for a while, and it's basically the same situation. I'd say that it's a combination of feature creep and the absence of a bulletproof framework.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by amicusNYCL (1538833)

          It's not all that difficult to set up a system where you log in, click on a course to launch it, and the course communicates with the LMS. That's only one small part of the LMS though, there are a lot of managerial things to set up also.

          I've worked for the same company for the past 7 years, the core business of the company is producing online training courses but when I started we did have an LMS also that we built. At the time it was on version 5, and had started as a research project for Intel in 1998.

  • Good call (Score:5, Funny)

    by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @11:53AM (#28853621) Homepage Journal

    Somebody tried to patent the blackboard?

    Now THERE's a stretch...

  • If anyone wants to help, I'm documenting this on en.swpat.org/wiki/Blackboard_inc. [swpat.org]

  • Dead company walking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @12:03PM (#28853763) Homepage

    You know when some company with a totally crap product starts looking at their patent portfolio for survival...you know, like SCO...that they don't have much going for them. Instead of putting that time and money into making their products better, they put their best efforts into litigation. You know that's a red flag for any company.

    Can we please trade eastern district of Texas back to Mexico? That court is a plague on business and an anchor on innovation.

  • by CarpetShark (865376) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @12:10PM (#28853879)

    you may read the appellate court's decision here (PDF) or on scribd.

    Or if scribd is insufficiently annoying, we can print it out with an old 40 chars-per-line dot matrix, onto toasted wholemeal bread. We can then supply a strong lamp, a pen, and some blank bread for use as notepaper whilst you attempt to decipher it.

    • by flibuste (523578)

      No, that's fine, thank you. ScribD IS sufficiently annoying.

      Can someone remind me why those kind of sites which gather docs and make then absolutely unreadable exist?

    • you may read the appellate court's decision here (PDF) or on scribd.

      Or if scribd is insufficiently annoying, we can print it out with an old 40 chars-per-line dot matrix, onto toasted wholemeal bread. We can then supply a strong lamp, a pen, and some blank bread for use as notepaper whilst you attempt to decipher it.

      I don't know why this is moderated "Funny" -- it's one of the most "Insightful" posts I've read on /. today.

      Scribd is complete slow, buggy, poorly-thought-out garbage.

  • OK - first ignore (for a moment) your hate of patents, copyright, etc.

    Now ignore the othe companies prior art.
    My question: Blackboard created (in 1999) some software and then later merged that company (their original company) into blackboard (seems like they just wanted to incorporate with a better name) and absorbed the patents. Given the patents are now owned by blackboard - I don't understand how their own prior art could invalidate them? Couldn't they sue based on that prior art? This one eludes
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by meerling (1487879)
      I'm not any kind of patent expert or anything like that, so take this guesswork with a few thousand grains of salt.

      I believe that prior art has to be listed for a variety of reasons. I'm pretty sure that one of them is to limit the scope and duration of that portion of any new patent that includes that same (?) feature. To not list prior art that they themselves own is kind of like trying to get a free (and faudulent) extension to the previous patent.
      (Kind of like expecting the warranty on your old stere
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Prior art is not "somebody patented it already". Prior art is "somebody published it already".

      If I publish a description of a new invention, then five years later decide I'd like to patent it because it's making money, I'm too late. My own published description from five years previously is prior art.

      So Blackboard publish software embodying an "invention". Several years later they patent that "invention". The original software is prior art and invalidates the patent.

  • They still have claims 39-44 and those are enforceable? What! Those are dependent claims. You break the parent and the dependent ones fall apart. At least that's what I was always told. Am I wrong on that or do they just want to keep hope alive?

  • by dcollins (135727) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @01:04PM (#28854851) Homepage

    Consider this headline: "Blackboard Breakdown: CUNY in a 'Very Difficult Box to Get Out of' After Online Centralization Plan Backfires". (CUNY, City University of New York, third-largest university system in the US, 21 campuses).

    "Blackboard 8 had never been used at a university close to the size of CUNY, where it has 130,000 users including 8,000 faculty members. When the semester started, Blackboard buckled under the load, which peaked at 35,000 users every three hours during peak activity. Sporadic Blackboard service during the first weeks of the semester meant many students could not submit their assignments, take quizzes or stay in contact with their instructors."

    http://www.indypendent.org/2009/06/12/blackboard_breakdown/ [indypendent.org]

  • ...it's the competition. I administer a moderately-sized Bb 8 installation (some 1000s of concurrent users, we migrated from 6.3 last semester without too much trouble, and without paying Bb their outrageous consultancy fees) and in all honesty, we would LOVE to ditch Blackboard. Bb 8 is a heckuva lot better than 6.3 but it's still pretty much inadequate. We have a moodle setup up and running for a different part of our online courses, and it gets used pretty thoroughly. HOWEVER, and I hate to say it, moodl
  • Now lets roll out some competition, so that those assholes at Blackboard can stop coding like they're blindfolded...

HELP!!!! I'm being held prisoner in /usr/games/lib!

Working...