Thursday, September 07, 2006

who invented the VLE?

The biggest news of the elearning blogosphere continues to be the Blackboard patenting issue. As we mentioned before this has been simmering for a little while but now as the legal proceedings trundle forward in Blackboard's claim against Desire2Learn, more and more technology conferences are putting aside time for discussion of the issues.

The UK's Association for Learning Technology has provided some transcripts of discussions they have had with both companies to try and get some clarification of the issues. Blackboard's comments are here, whilst Desire2Learn's are here. The issue centres on the granting of a US patent to Blackboard for the VLE concept. This caused some shock to many in the technology community since it was felt that much of this was in the public domain and that there would be demonstrable examples of "prior art" that would make such a patent invalid. However, we will need to see how the legal proceedings progress. Meanwhile the granting of a European patent is not at all clear cut.

For those dabbling in the development of VLE systems the patent is more than disconcerting so this first testing in court is likely to be crucial. Blackboard, in their statement, say that they have no desire to attack, for example, the Open Source community, but given that they have just swallowed up their long-time rival (WebCT) and are now beginning to sue other smaller commercial operations it will be intriguing to see what sort of attitude emerges should an Open Source product become a significant commercial threat.

No comments: