Blackboard patents e-Learning Technolgoy

Blackboard have been awarded patents on technologies related to…

"… internet-based education support systems and methods. The patent covers core technology relating to certain systems and methods involved in offering online education, including course management systems and enterprise e-Learning systems.

In addition, patents corresponding with the U.S. patent have been issued in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and are pending in the European Union, China, Japan, Canada, India, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, Hong Kong and Brazil.

The patented technology underpins Blackboard’s e-Learning software applications, including the Blackboard Learning System(TM), WebCT Vista(TM) and WebCT Campus Edition(TM), and provides the advanced functionality enjoyed by millions of Blackboard users worldwide… "

Now to capture the general feeling and issues that this raises, I suggest you visit Stephen Downes who has picked some of the comments (and definitely the concerns) being posted out there…

The press release at Blackboard mentions patents have also been issued all over the world, including Australia….
Now – I’m not an IP lawyer, but I have been invovled with patents a couple of times (and decided not to go through the hugely expensive, incredibly extensive process) – so I really did raise my eyebrows as to how Blackboard were able to be granted a patent…just based on the criteria required…
Here’s what IP Australia say:

"Is my invention eligible for patent protections?
Your invention must:

  • be new, (‘novel’) which means that the invention has not been publicly disclosed in any form, anywhere in the world;
  • involve an inventive step for a standard patent. This means that the invention must not be obvious to someone with knowledge and experience in the technological field of the invention; or
  • for an innovation patent it must involve an innovative step. This means that any variation between the invention and what is currently known about that technology, must make a substantial contribution to the working of the invention;
  • be a ‘manner of manufacture’. It includes any device, substance, method or process, but it excludes artistic creations, mathematical methods, plans, schemes or other purely mental processes; and
  • be useful-your invention should do what you say it will do."

OK – now HOW exactly did a patent get awarded based on this criteria?? hmmmm???