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[News] Microsoft-funded Blackboard Tries to Devour Free Software Substitutes?

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Next Step for Blackboard and Open Source

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| While open source advocates tend to view Blackboard’s for-profit, 
| license-based model with disdain, the company has responded with a public 
| commitment to embrace free sharing of code when possible. Its first effort to 
| that end, earlier this year, was a partnership with Syracuse University to 
| develop a free software plug-in that would bridge the divide between the 
| Blackboard interface and data from Sakai, one of the main open-source course 
| management packages.      
| Today, at the annual conference of Educause, the higher education information 
| technology group, Blackboard is announcing a similar project to integrate 
| with Moodle, the other primary open source alternative. Although it was 
| previously known that Moodle would be next, the announcement revealed that 
| Iowa State University would develop the plug-in with support from Blackboard.     


Blackboard Partners With Iowa State University To Develop Moodle Integration

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| Blackboard Inc., a leading provider of educational enterprise technology, 
| announced today that it has partnered with Iowa State University to develop 
| software that will allow institutions to connect their Blackboard(R) learning 
| environment with the open source Moodle course management system.   
| In July, Blackboard announced a similar partnership with Syracuse University 
| to develop an integration for the open source Sakai course management system. 
| Both efforts -- which will be made available at no cost to institutions in 
| the Blackboard community -- are part of Project NG, Blackboard's multi-year, 
| multi-release effort to deliver a next generation teaching and learning     



'How to Put the Whole Educational Process Online'

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| Q. You've recently announced that you plan to help allow open-source software
| to integrate with the Blackboard system. That's an interesting move. Is this
| an attempt to kill open source by having colleges move it off to the side at
| their universities?
| A. At many universities we are the standard learning system on their
| campuses. There is maybe a division that is running open-source software. Why
| should students or faculty care what the back-end technology is that's
| powering that course? They don't care. … They should log into Blackboard and
| have access to all of their courses. We've been working hand in hand with a
| lot of schools that have open-source systems on their campuses, and we want
| to make sure we're supporting that.


Blackboard Customers Consider Alternatives

,----[ Quote ]
| Blackboard has become the Microsoft of higher-education technology, say many
| campus-technology officials, and they don't mean the comparison as a
| compliment. To them the company is not only big but also pushy, and many of
| them love to hate it.
| [...]
| LeTourneau's contract with Blackboard ends this year, and campus officials
| may join the growing number of colleges switching to Moodle, a free,
| open-source course-management system, or Sakai, another free program. Those
| systems have grown feature-rich enough to pose serious challenges to
| Blackboard. Giants like the Georgia Institute of Technology and the
| University of California at Los Angeles, along with smaller colleges, like
| Louisiana State University at Shreveport, have made the jump.


Patent Office Will Continue Reexamination of Blackboard's Controversial Patent

,----[ Quote ]
| The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a request by Blackboard
| Inc. for a temporary halt in the office’s review of a software patent the
| company holds concerning course-management systems.
| This year Blackboard won a lawsuit in federal court against a rival software
| company, Desire2Learn, for violating the patent, though Desire2Learn has
| appealed the decision. Meanwhile, Desire2Learn had formally challenged the
| validity of the patent with the patent office, arguing that it is overly
| broad and covers technology that other companies had developed before
| Blackboard filed its patent. The patent office issued an initial verdict in
| March that rejected all 44 of the claims that make up Blackboard’s patent.
| But that review is “nonfinal,” meaning that the review is still underway.



All 44 Blackboard Patent Claims Invalidated by USPTO

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| This decision actually should have come before the trial verdict but was held
| up because the USPTO had to decide what to do about the separate filings from
| D2L and SFLC. Now, in addition to the fact that Blackboard will be able to
| argue against the ruling with the USPTO, there are a number of questions
| regarding how this affects the court case.    


The Blackboard Patent and Blackboard's Big Idea

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| Now that the Blackboard Patent Court Case has begun, let's recap the main
| issues. Blackboard    sued Desire2Learn for patent infringement. What is the
| patent claim and what is at stake?  


Blackboard Inc. Is Awarded Payment From Competitor in Patent Case

,----[ Quote
| "This is a signal event in educational technology," said Alfred H. Essa,
| associate vice chancellor and deputy chief information officer for Minnesota
| State Colleges and Universities. "It means that the big boys are playing for
| keeps and will use their patent portfolio at any cost to crush and deter new
| entrants. As a community, it will take us a long time to recover from this
| mess."    


Taurus/Orion/Spangenberg Hold Off Ford in Madison; Blackboard-Desire2Learn
Trial Begins in Lufkin

,----[ Quote ]
| Interestingly, Desire2Learn is blogging about the trial. Desire2Learn has
| already invalidated 35 out of the 44 claims of the '138 patent. I love how
| Desire2Learn refers to the inventors in quotes - "inventors." From
| Desire2Learn's blog, we learn that the Software Freedom Law Center filed an
| ex parte reexamination request, and Desire2Learn filed an inter partes
| reexamination request. Both were granted, and are continuing in parallel to
| the trial. We also learn that Judge Clark did not rule on any pending summary
| judgment motions, and decided to hold them for trial.      


Blackboard Patent Goes to Trial

,----[ Quote ]
| The Blackboard patent infringement case against Desire2Learn goes to trial on
| February 11, 2008 in Lufkin, Texas.  The trial is expected to last two weeks.
| Both sides will have no more than 18 hours to present their case.  
| [...]
| By all accounts Blackboard's patent is a stupid one and never should have
| been issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).


Blackboard Problems Leave Vista on Double-Secret Probation

,----[ Quote ]
| On college campuses, Microsoft's Vista operating system may be in
| danger of failing courses that use Blackboard, a key software
| program for communication between teachers and students.

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