There is an interesting angle in a press release issued on 7/8/2006 by eCollege, a significant US competitor to Blackboard, and picking up on a point also made by John Mayer on 2/8/2006. (Mayer's legally-oriented blog has plenty else on it of interest.) Extract from the eCollege press release:
Thorne (Chairman and CEO of eCollege) concluded his comments by stating, "The fact that one company has been granted a patent for such a broad application and now is engaging in litigation with another eLearning provider is unfortunate for a market that traditionally has been fueled by innovation and choice. It also is unfortunate that Blackboard chose not to issue a press release when the patent was awarded this past January, at a time when the Department of Justice was investigating the antitrust ramifications of Blackboard's merger with its competitor, WebCT."
Of course, not issuing a press release does not mean Blackboard failed to tell the DoJ of its patent: what it does mean is that Blackboard's competitors, who presumably had their eye off the patent ball* - as did the rest of the e-learning community - did not use the existence of the patent to oppose Blackboard's acquisition of WebCT. Which presumably they would have done.
- Blackboard 6/2/2006 press release announcing that the DoJ had cleared the "merger".
- Interesting 8/8/2006 legally confident posting by John Ottaviani, a guest writer on the blog of Eric Goldman who teaches Law at Santa Clara University School of Law.
- Corrosive and witty 8/8/2006 view of Blackboard's "spin strategy" by Al Essa, whose other analysis is worth examining.
* in fact eCollege looks like its eye has been firmly on the patent ball: see this Open Letter to the Chairman and CEO of eCollege.
Updated with footnote, and further links, 9/8/2006. Attributed link to posting by John Ottaviani, rather than Eric Goldman, 12/8/2006.
Note. Other posts about the Blackboard patent:
- 25 January 2007 - United States Patent & Trademark Office orders re-examination of Blackboard Patent;
- 9 December 2006 - Two contrasting views about software patents. A debate between Eben Moglen and Blackboard's Matt Small;
- 2 December 2006 - Blackboard: two separate re-examination requests to the US Patent and Trade Mark Office; and an application to the Court from Desire2Learn for a stay in proceedings;
- 27 October 2006 - EDUCAUSE on Blackboard: "patenting a community creation is anathema to our culture";
- 16 October 2006 - John Mayer interviews various lawyers with patent knowhow;
- 10 September 2006 - The new "post-patent" environment for e-learning: a perspective. Guest contribution by Jim Farmer;
- 9 September 2006 - Blackboard's work for IMS;
- 8 August 2006 - Did the US Department of Justice know about the patent when it cleared Blackboard's acquisition of Web CT?;
- 26 July 2006 - Blackboard's US Patent 6988138.