More Insanity From “The Lawsuit”

To be honest with you, I hate picking on Blackboard. I really do. They just make it so easy. Campus Technology published an interview with Blackboard’s Chief Legal Officer Matthew Small. I’ll just quote the article – no need to embellish what was said – it’s funny enough.

“this was in a very sophisticated patent jurisdiction that hears a lot of patent cases with a very sophisticated judge.”

I nearly fell over laughing on this one. I’m from Texas, and this jurisdiction was East Texas. Texans hate to be called “sophisticated” in general (to us, it’s better to be a “good ‘ole boy”). I don’t know if they realize that they actually might have insulted the people they were trying to compliment. But, in all seriousness, this one smacks of propaganda. I guess there is just no nice way to say “this was in a rocket-docket jurisdiction that hears a lot of patent cases and always finds in favors of patent holders regardless of prior art.” Blackboard, if you want us to go for this, try filing in a jurisdiction that finds closer to 50-50 on these cases.

“I think what’s happening is there are some people in the e-learning community who quite frankly don’t understand patent law, and, if they understood what is typically patentable, what a patent looks like, what a good patent looks like, they wouldn’t read the Blackboard patent and say, “Oh, I don’t think this should be a valid patent.” I think for many of the commentators, this is the first patent they’ve ever read”

The same old tired line from Blackboard – we are too stupid to understand something like patent law. I get tired of shooting this one down, because it is just plain insulting. Patent law is not hard to understand. Get over it. You can’t come up with a good counter argument for most “commentators,” so you resort to blowing smoke. And what does the first patent thing have to do with anything? If that means anything, then why are you trying to patent something that was the first thing you created in 1998? If being the first at something means that you don’t know what you are talking about, then what does that mean about you patenting being the first CMS to have multiple roles for a single user? Hmmmm…..

“When you look at the facts, at the end of 1998–a decade ago–when you look at course management systems and see how many of them allowed a single user with a single logon and a single user account to have multiple roles across multiple courses, none of them did.”

What is sad is that many CMS companies have pointed out that they did have this back even in 1995. It’s even sadder that Blackboard thinks that there is this huge wall of separation between online education and the rest of the online world. For at least a decade prior to 1998, bulletin boards had the ability to allow a single user with a single logon and a single user account to have multiple roles across multiple boards. It would be comparable for someone to come along and patent the concept of a blog in CMS because they were the first to stick one in their software. The course management system did not grow up in a vacuum separated from the rest of the online world.

“But in late 1998, it was not obvious that you would take role-based access control and apply it in the way that we did to a course management system.”

This one makes me sick. I remember discussing this exact issue in an education class while working on my Bachelor’s degree. And I graduated in 1997. Sigh……

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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