Blackboard Wins Patent-Infringement Case Against Rival Courseware Provider

A federal jury in Texas ruled this afternoon in favor of Blackboard Inc., the nation’s leading online provider of course-management software, in its patent-infringement lawsuit against Desire2Learn Inc.

Blackboard sued the smaller Canadian-based company in 2006, asserting that it had infringed a patent that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had granted Blackboard that year. As a result, the larger company said, Desire2Learn had taken away customers that should have been Blackboard’s.

Desire2Learn, which has its headquarters in Kitchener, Ontario, argued that Blackboard’s patent was invalid and should never have been granted in the first place. Lawyers for the company said that Blackboard officials were aware of similar technology, or what’s known as “prior art,” that existed before it filed its patent application, and that the company had failed to divulge that information to the patent office.

The jury, which began deliberating just before noon on Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Lufkin, Tex., announced its verdict this afternoon. The case has been closely watched by campus-technology officials, many of whom feared that a win by Blackboard could stifle innovation and leave colleges and course-management software providers vulnerable to more legal challenges by Blackboard.

In particular, institutions that use open source systems designed by Moodle and Sakai have been concerned that an adverse verdict could shut them down, though Blackboard has promised to take no action against such users.

Should campuses that do not use Blackboard be worried? Tell us what you think. —Katherine Mangan

Return to Top