Thursday, September 07, 2006

Educause on Blackboard Patent

A message from Brian Hawkins, President of EDUCAUSE
See full text pdf

"Like all of you, EDUCAUSE is concerned about the vitality of the supplier marketplace for tools and solutions that are essential to higher education. And, like you, EDUCAUSE is deeply concerned that laws and regulations recognize both the rights of intellectual property (IP) holders (our universities are significant producers of IP) and the incentives to invest in innovation. Our positions on advanced networking, CALEA, and Net Neutrality are just three examples where we have worked hard and well to promote and protect innovation in information technology."

"With respect to the issues of course management systems, we have been actively engaged in conducting necessary due diligence; that is, we are trying to understand the situation so that we can educate our members and, if appropriate, establish an advocacy position. We at EDUCAUSE have consciously avoided any public statement about a position per se, as we do not yet have the information base and legal research to make any statement. However, because of the strong interest in the community, we feel it is important to let you know what EDUCAUSE has been doing in this arena."

So what have they done? (read the pdf for details)

  • Discussed at their Board of Directors.
  • Retained legal counsel for advice about the patent.
  • Gathered viewpoints from the educational community.
  • Will provide a discussion panel at EDUCAUSE 2006 in Dallas.
  • Instructed policy staff to stay current with the proposed patent reform legislation.
  • Started developing an EDUCAUSE statement on educational patents. "This subject is, of course, very complex for all of us in higher education, as we are both patent holders and consumers of patented products. At the same time, we are creatures of the colleges and universities within which we work, whose very essence is about the creation and dissemination of intellectual property and respect for the creators of such property when clear evidence of their original innovation is present.
So what's the bottom line? Don't know yet. It will be interesting to see what they say directly about the Blackboard case since BB is definitely a major vendor/sponsor for Educause events. My guess is that they don't take a hard line against this type of activity and instead invoke some B.S. about free market economy and the competitive marketplace. What they should do is take this opportunity to become an advocate for higher education to start breaking their ties with commercial vendors and to utilize the internal expertise in a more collaborative manner for the good of all of academia. Maybe in my next lifetime.

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