Thursday, April 30, 2009

ComETS: A vibrant ed tech community at Wisconsin

With the launch of their new site this week, I wanted to share a very cool thing about UW.

The instructional technology community here at UW-Madison is comprised of staff from both our central IT division and local departments, schools, and colleges -- a large and dispersed group of talented people.

One of the most significant challenges over the years has been to coordinate and collaborate with each other. In the past 5 years, we have made great strides in increasing the amount of interaction and collegiality between central and local instructional technology staff. This has occurred primarily through a grass-roots organization we created called ComETS (Community of Educational Technology Support.

ComETS is made up of instructional technologists, system administrators, IT managers, librarians, and some faculty. We host events such as brown bags, presentations, discussions, and webinars. Special interest groups with specific interests in open source, clickers, sims/games, and media production shops have emerged.

Most of all, I have appreciated how the success of ComETS has laid the groundwork for successful collaborations between central and local instructional technology staff. Together we have been able to jointly tackle challenges such as IT strategic planning and emergency planning for our course management system. We have been able to make more informed decisions with input from diverse pockets of campus.

Our colleagues at Iowa State have recently started their own ComETS organization, and we wish them the best of success.

Do others have examples of such communities on their campus?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blackboard files lawsuit against D2L in Canada

Blackboard followed through on its statement to The Chronicle and filed a patent infringement lawsuit on April 24 against Desire2Learn through the Ottawa office of Canada's Federal Court (see court records T-655-09).

To summarize, here are the active proceedings in this complicated story listed in chronological order:

- Blackboard vs. Desire2Learn (US Federal Court)
- US Patent Office review of Blackboard's "'138" patent
- Blackboard vs. US Patent Office (US Federal Court)
- Blackboard complaint aginst Desire2Learn to US International Trade Commission
- Blackboard vs. Desire2Learn (Canada Federal Court)

Keep up if you can.

As in the U.S., Blackboard has been awarded a number of educational technology-related patents in Canada. The above lawsuit is based on Canadian patent 2378200. Here's the entire list.

I wonder if Blackboard will now be applying for patents in whatever country is producing learning technology products.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blackboard to take war against D2L to Canada

The Chronicle's Jeffrey Young reports:
Blackboard’s general counsel, Matthew Small, said that the company also plans to file a patent-infringement lawsuit against Desire2Learn in a Canadian court today or tomorrow.

Seriously. I cannot imagine how Bb can fund so many simultaneous lawsuits, complaints, and appeals...not to mention host their annual "Bb World" that has brought in keynote speakers such as Cal Ripken, Robert Reich, and Steve Wozniak (before he was a true star on Dancing with Stars).

I would love to be a fly on the wall at Blackboard's annual meeting with shareholders in June.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blackboard files complaint with ITC against D2L

While many were celebrating Earth Day, a new front has emerged in the Blackboard vs. Desire2Learn saga.

Just when we thought it could not get any more complex, Blackboard pulls out another dagger. According to Eric Schweibenz's article on the "ITC 337 Blog", Blackboard has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission against D2L stating that D2L has imported an infringing product (based on the original '138 patent which has recently been invalidated by the USPTO).

Bryan Farney provides an excellent introduction to the world of Section 337 violations:
Section 337(a)(1)(B) of the Tariff Act of 1930 declares unlawful "importation into the Untied States, the sale for importation, or the sale within the United States after importation by the owner, importer, or consignee, of articles that - (i) infringe a valid and enforceable United States patent . . . or (ii) are made, produced, processed, or mined under, or by means of, a process covered by the claims of a valid and enforceable United States patent."
Farney goes on to explain:
The key distinctions between an infringement action in the ITC and in federal district court are that the ITC may not award damages, and the time frame for ITC proceedings is more expeditious than in many district courts. Furthermore, ITC complainants may in some situations secure temporary and permanent exclusion orders that can be different, and better, in scope than comparable district court preliminary or permanent injunctions.

Another difference between an ITC proceeding and a federal court proceeding is that the filing of a complaint with the ITC does not guarantee that an investigation will occur. The ITC has discretion to determine whether an investigation should take place, and, if it does so, the ITC itself conducts the investigation, with its staff attorneys acting as an independent party in the proceeding.

It appears that this complaint might or might not amount to anything. At worse, it could mean that a quick action by the ITC could lead to a comparatively quick and potentially significant consequence.

Hang on. Here we go yet again.

Want details on the Blackboard v. Desire2Learn drama?

Michael Feldstein, IT-consultant-turned-investigative-reporter, has unpacked the latest events of the Blackboard vs. D2L edupatent saga.

The bottom line is that this drama has two plots: A) The Bb vs. D2L federal lawsuit that is now based on a patent that has been invalidated (non-final, of course), and B) Bb vs. the U.S. Patent Office patent invalidation process and lawsuit. (Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!)

...and all this will take a very long time - and a lot of money - to resolve.

As I commented on Michael's post above, I have a few lingering questions in all of this:

1) How long can Bb attempt to put D2L out of business, especially considering D2L’s viability as a competitor was used to support Bb’s case when acquiring WebCT? At what point does the Dept. of Justice enter the picture?

2) How can the USPTO issue a second patent to Blackboard that is very very similar to the original one that the USPTO has now invalidated?

3) For how long will Blackboard customers accept Bb’s litigious nature? When will their customers see the effects of the costs associated with Bb’s lawsuits?

Thanks to stuartpilbrow for the apropos image.

Friday, April 17, 2009

US Patent Office rejects entire Blackboard patent

Thanks to Steve Krogull for pointing out that Desire2Learn posted information that shows the US Patent Office has rejected all claims in Blackboard's first eLearning patent. We've seen this before ("non-final" is the key term), and now there is another very similar Blackboard patent on the books, but this is more promising news for the educational technology community.

Meanwhile, I am wondering what Blackboard customers think about the estimated $25 million Blackboard has spent on their patents and litigation.