p2pnet.net News:- A Waterloo, Ontario company spends years developing new technologies that leverage the power of the Internet. It develops a global following. Then, seemingly out of the blue, it’s hit with a patent infringement suit by a US company, instantly facing the prospect of years of costly litigation in US courts. With limited resources, it must defend itself by arguing that the patents are invalid.
Blackboard, a US-based LMS company that recently merged with Canadian-based WebCT to become the largest company in the market, took the academic community by surprise late last month when it announced that it had been granted a broad patent in the United States covering 44 claims related to learning management systems. It added that it expects similar patents to be granted in nearly a dozen countries around the world including Canada, Australia, and the European Union.
On the same day that it publicly disclosed its patent, Blackboard initiated a patent infringement suit in a Texas court against Desire2Learn.
The open source software community has also reacted with alarm, since there are several ongoing open-source LMS projects that have gained increasing popularity in recent months. These projects, which include Moodle and Sakai, are freely available and therefore represent a significant competitive threat to the proprietary LMS vendors such as Blackboard and Desire2Learn. Noting that Desire2Learn was the first legal target, open source developers have wondered aloud whether they might be next.
Interestingly, open source and Internet tools are emerging as the first line of defence against the Blackboard patent and lawsuit. Angry educators have launched an online petition calling on Blackboard to drop the lawsuit and to agree to forego any future patent suits.
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