Jim Farmer’s Eyewitness Account of the Blackboard Patent Trial


Through a combination of resignation towards what seemed a pre-determined outcome and pre-occupation with Northern Voice when it was announced, I managed to miss most of the recent hair-pulling that the ridiculous finding in Blackboard’s favour prompted. And thank goodness too, my hair couldn’t have stood it 😉

But I did go read Jim Farmer’s extended eyewitness account of the trial which Michael Feldstein graciously posted over at e-Literate, and I thoroughly advise you too as well, as much for what it portends for the future of high tech patents as what it says about this particular judgement.

It is not difficult to see a picture here (and I want to be clear here, because I think Jim did a fine job being as impartial as possible, that these are my interpretations) of not just “Justice for Sale” but “Patent Law Judgements as Economic Diversification Program.” It’s bad enough to have to read this about Blackboard’s (god how I even cringe to write that name) expert witness:

“Expert witnesses always are asked about their fees. When asked how much he had earned, Mark Jones was unable to give an answer. He said he had spent “hundreds of hours” and gave his rate as $325 per hour. (I thought he said $375, but court documents have the lower amount). He also said he had received $170,000 in fees from Blackboard before the end of 2007 as his [IRS Form] 1099 showed. It is likely he will have been paid more than $300,000 for his testimony when the trial is complete.”

But the picutre of an economically challenged town with a propensity to trust the government (in this case the Patent Office) gearing up to become a high tech patent rocket docket should send shivers up your spine (well, at least unless you are totally jaded about the state of justice in the land, which I can’t say I’d blame you for being.)

Go read for yourself. But all I can help thinking is – did we honestly think it was going to go any other way? And how far along are you on your open source CMS? (or even better, on your loosely coupled teaching platform?) – SWL

2 thoughts on “Jim Farmer’s Eyewitness Account of the Blackboard Patent Trial”

  1. “And how far along are you on your open source CMS? (or even better, on your loosely coupled teaching platform?)”

    Yes. This worries me a little, although I wonder how effectively they can prosecute those of us using tools other than open source LMS’s such as Sakai and Moodle? For instance, since I use Drupal which is a more general content management system, I’m the one putting the pieces together–plugging in the modules–and configuring the system so that it becomes an LMS. That would seem to make me or my institution liable, not Drupal. It would be worse than the RIAA file sharing suit PR fiasco for Blackboard to go after single teachers or individual institutions.

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