Al Gore became the butt of jokes when he claimed that he invented the Internet.
Did you know though that Blackboard invented e-Learning: the concept, the technology and all its "methods"?
The moronic US Patent Office recently granted Blackboard a patent, which according to the company's news release "covers core technology relating to certain systems and methods involved in offering online education, including course management systems and enterprise e-Learning systems." The news release also notes that the "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."
As recently as a couple of days ago I argued with my friends that Blackboard's intention was purely defensive. In the present idiotic patent regime is it not better to have in place a real deterrent than to be slapped with a lawsuit by a competitor? Software patent anarchy has also allowed scam companies to emerge whose business model is based on predation not invention: file a bogus patent claim, be awarded the patent by a pathetic patent office, and start suing (or threatening to sue) companies for patent infringement.
I was wrong: Blackboard's intentions are predatory, not defensive. It plans to use the patent weapon Soprano-style to crush competition and ruthlessly stifle all innovation in the elearning space. As soon as the ink was dry on the patent grant, Blackboard immediately filed a patent infringement claim against Desire2Learn, a small Canadian competitor which was just beginning to make modest inroads in the learning management space. Blackboard (with the recent "acquisition" of WebCT) now commands more than seventy-five percent of the market share for LMSs in US higher education. D2L was beginning to creep up past six and seven percent.
D2L plans "vigorously" to challenge the lawsuit, but most likely it will not succeed by itself. Baker is a very likeable, youthful, enterpreneur who cares about more creating a fine product than stuffing his pocket with billfolds. D2L sales have continued to climb mostly through word-of-mouth among customers. Imagine a company outfitted mostly with software engineers and the occasional sales person and no lawyers. Contrast that with a predatory company full of MBAs, a hyped product that continued to rise in price because of a lack of competition. The same company has now been awarded a patent WMD by the US Patent Office.