Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Desire2Monopolize

Unbelievable. The U.S. Government continues to amaze me by taking stupidity to new heights. This time it's the patent office who takes a turn at making my head spin. BlackCT (Blackboard, if you must) was awarded Patent# 6,988,138 for "Internet-based education support system and methods."

The Abstract says: "
A system and methods for implementing education online by providing institutions with the means for allowing the creation of courses to be taken by students online, the courses including assignments, announcements, course materials, chat and whiteboard facilities, and the like, all of which are available to the students over a network such as the Internet. Various levels of functionality are provided through a three-tiered licensing program that suits the needs of the institution offering the program. In addition, an open platform system is provided such that anyone with access to the Internet can create, manage, and offer a course to anyone else with access to the Internet without the need for an affiliation with an institution, thus enabling the virtual classroom to extend worldwide."

The patent then goes into painstaking detail describing each nook and cranny of the BlackCT system. Basically, the gov't has just handed them a monopoly on learning management systems, or so it would appear. Maybe there will be some room for legal wrangling for differentiated products, but to my semi-trained legal eye, the patent is pretty damn broad.

Blackboard Patent FAQ page.

So Blackboard apparently has a Desire2Monopolize the LMS/IMS/CMS field and a Desire2Squash Desire2Learn and all the other competitors out there. No surprise that they want to do it, but I'm totally suprised that the good-old U.S. of A. thinks it's a good idea.

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