Colleges criticize Blackboard patent

When learning management systems (LMS) provider Blackboard Inc. brought suit against its smaller rival Desire2Learn, it drew indignation from schools around the country, reports eSchool News.

When learning management systems (LMS) provider Blackboard Inc. brought suit against its smaller rival Desire2Learn, it drew indignation from schools around the country, reports eSchool News.

The patent recently awarded to Blackboard covers basic features of online education systems, including course management and enterprise e-learning systems.

The lawsuit will have huge implication for online education, and many feel that the patent is overly broad. Colleges and other e-learning institutions registered their complaints by sending around online petitions and creating a lot of buzz in the education community. The concern is that Blackboard will completely monopolize the business.

The patent "is antithetical to the way that academia makes progress," said blogger Michael Feldstein, assistant director of the State University of New York's online learning network.

Blackboard, which recently acquired rival WebCT, says it must protect its $100 million investment in the technology, which is why it sued rival Desire2Learn the day after its patent was awarded.

"It just wouldn't be a level playing field if someone could come onto the scene tomorrow, copy everything that Blackboard and WebCT have done, and call it their own," said Blackboard general counsel Matthew Small.

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