Friday, February 02, 2007

Blackboard offer peace treaty to open source community

Blackboard, it seems, have recognised the damage to their image they have done by patenting elearning.

"Facing sharp criticism from academic computing experts, Blackboard Inc. announced Thursday what it calls a legally binding promise that it won't pursue patent lawsuits against users of open-source online classroom technology.

An open-source group said it welcomed the move but noted a key caveat: It covers a number of named open-source projects, but technically leaves open the possibility future open-source initiatives that bundle proprietary software could be vulnerable...

Blackboard denied it would sue academic users but will now make that commitment more formal, with a worldwide agreement that the company's chief legal officer, Matthew Small, said could be used in court against the company if it ever pursued such an action."

Oh dear. The solution to the lawyerly problems is more lawyers. From the BlackBoard site:

"In summary, the Blackboard Patent Pledge is a promise by the company to never assert its issued or pending course management system software patents against open source software or home-grown course management systems. The Blackboard Pledge is legally binding, irrevocable and worldwide in scope.

"As a member of the e-Learning community, we are committed to the open exchange of ideas, collaboration and innovation," said Michael Chasen, president and chief executive officer of Blackboard. "This pledge is part of that commitment and our continued efforts to work collaboratively with the e- Learning community to foster greater openness and interoperability."

Specifically, the Pledge commits Blackboard not to assert U.S. Patent No. 6,988,138 and many other pending patent applications against the development, use or distribution of open source software or home-grown course management systems anywhere in the world, to the extent that such systems are not bundled with proprietary software...

The Blackboard Patent Pledge along with many Frequently Asked Questions can be found at"

The BlackBoard patent pledge is here.

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