The Software Freedom Law Center has filed a request with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that is seeking to invalidate an 'Internet-Based Education Support System' patent that is owned by e-learning provider Blackboard.
Blackboard develops course management system applications that allow teachers in educational institutions and corporations to develop and support online courses including instructions, assignments and reading materials.
The SFLC filed its request on behalf of the Sakai, Moodle and ATutor open source e-learning projects.
"In a free society, there is no room for a monopoly on any part of the educational process," said Eben Moglen, executive director of the SFLC. "We are confident that that there is enough prior art for the Patent Office to open, re-examine, and ultimately revoke all of the patent's claims.
Matthew Small, general counsel for Blackboard, responded that he is confident about the re-examination procedure.
"The re-examination will only serve to strengthen our patent. We are confident of the strength and validity of our patent," Small told vnunet.com.
Under US law, anybody can request the USPTO to re-examine a patent. The patent organisation will make a decision within three months.
The application for the disputed patent was first filed in June 2000 and was awarded last January. After the patent was awarded, Blackboard in July filed a lawsuit against competing e-learning provider Desire2learn.
In its legal complaint, Blackboard demanded that its competitor stop selling products and services that infringe on the patent as well as payment of unspecified damages.
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