Supreme Court Decision Changing Patent Cases

There was an interesting item in today’s Wall Street Journal that may have an impact on the Blackboard patent. According to the WSJ:

Last week, a federal judge in San Francisco who previously had allowed a patent-infringement lawsuit to proceed against RealNetworks Inc. changed course and dismissed the case, citing the Supreme Court’s April ruling in KSR v. Teleflex. The case is believed to be the first in which a trial-court judge has reversed his position and dismissed a case in the defendant’s favor, citing the KSR decision.

The judge involved said the following at a hearing: “The Supreme Court has made it clear what it thinks. Patents are being issued on obvious inventions, and it tightened the reins.” Basically, this makes it easier to invalidate patents based on obviousness. More specifically (although I’m not an IP attorney so take this with a grain of salt), the KSR decision seems to say that it will be more difficult to enforce a patent that is a result “connecting the dots” from prior art rather than true innovation. Whether that affects the Blackboard patent remains to be seen.

Coverage of this can also be found (without a required login) at:


First week on the job!

After a long (by United States standards) vacation in France, I’m now officially on board at the Sakai Foundation and eager to get to work. As those of you who attended or viewed the Sakai Foundation update at the Amsterdam conference may remember, the first order of business for me is listening and learning. I’m going to do that by talking to as many people as I can. The institutional representatives of Sakai Foundation member organizations can expect contact from me or Mary Miles to set up some time. But Sakai is, of course, not defined by Foundation membership and, so, if you’d like to organize a meeting with me in the next 60 days, please send me or Mary an email. The end result of all of this talking will be to develop, in conjunction with the Board, a strategic plan for the foundation, a set of short term goals and a budget.

I’ve already started on these conversations, in fact. During my last week of vacation, I took some time to visit the Pierre and Marie Curie Institute in Paris who are piloting Sakai this coming term. Philippe Alves and Jean-François Lévêque gave me a tour of the Jardin des Plantes, introduced me to their colleague Christian Cousquer, and we discussed the challenges on their campus and their hopes for Sakai. I also took a quick side trip to Cambridge (via the Chunnel) to meet with the CARET team there. As you know, they have been doing a great deal of excellent work on Sakai and it was fantastic to see their work environment and understand what besides Sakai is happening there.


In order to be as available as possible, I won’t be traveling extensively over the next few months, but I will be in Michigan, Washington D.C. (IMS meeting) and Seattle (Educause). In addition to visiting schools close to my home in Berkeley, California, I’ll also be planning a trip or two to visit a few Sakai campuses, probably in the New York and Boston areas. Please let me or Mary know if you’d like to schedule some time with me while I’m in your neighborhood.


Other than that, I will be getting my arms around the administrative aspects of the job, getting to know the existing Foundations staff a bit better, helping with the Newport Beach conference, and starting to look at those items (e.g. the UX lead, the Fellows program, etc.) that have been awaiting the arrival of the new Executive Director.


Finally, I want to publicly thank Chuck Severance for all the help he has provided me (and undoubtedly will continue to provide). Anyone who has followed Sakai knows that summing up his contribution to the project and the community is impossible in a short space so I won’t even try. Let me just say that I’m highly energized by his contagious enthusiasm, good humor, obvious intelligence and seemingly inexhaustible appetite for travel. He will, I know, stay involved with Sakai and I look forward to singing karaoke with him sometime soon.