Blackboard-Desire2Learn Verdict

As you probably have heard by now, Blackboard received a favorable verdict in its patent lawsuit against Desire2Learn. In addition to a financial judgment of approximately $3.1M, the verdict allows Blackboard to ask for an injunction preventing D2L from selling its product in the United Sates until D2L either negotiates a license from Blackboard or modifies its product to avoid infringement. To my knowledge, Blackboard has not yet asked for this injunction and it is unclear whether the court would grant the injunction. D2L could certainly appeal the verdict, which means this particular thread of activity will be going on for some time.

This is certainly not either the end or, frankly, the most important part of the ongoing patent dispute. Completely separate from the Bb-D2L lawsuit, the US Patent Office will be re-examining the validity of Blackboard’s patent. The Sakai Foundation has always believed this re-examination will be the critical activity in ensuring the patent does not have a continued deleterious affect on innovation and openness in the community.

In summary:

  • This jury verdict is not a judgment that Blackboard holds a valid patent. It is an initial verdict that D2L infringed on the Blackboard patent. As such, the verdict is not that surprising. The Sakai Foundation continues to believe that the Blackboard patent should not have been awarded in the first place.
  • In 2006, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) filed a patent re-examination request on behalf of Sakai, Moodle and ATutor. That re-examination will happen and we continue to believe Blackboard’s patent will be overturned.
  • Blackboard has pledged not to assert this patent, along with several others it holds, against open source or homegrown systems, so long as they are not bundled with proprietary software.

At this point in time, the verdict is simply the conclusion of the process that started over a year ago when the suit was originally filed. This initial verdict simply means the process and uncertainty will continue. Of course, had D2L prevailed this still might have been true because Blackboard may have chosen to appeal the verdict. Regardless, we are sorry to see so much effort and money being spent on litigation.

The Sakai Foundation and our colleagues at the SFLC will continue to challenge the patent at the USPTO and monitor developments elsewhere. One of the main reasons the Sakai project was started in the first place was to provide more choice for the higher education community. We hope that D2L will continue to offer its product in the United States. We do not want to see this verdict result in less competition and fewer choices in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, the Sakai community is fast approaching the release of version 2.5 of our collaboration and learning environment. Members of the academic community have worked together to build the Sakai CLE and distribute it free of charge under an open source license. The Sakai CLE is being used successfully at large and small campus around the world. If you aren’t involved already, we think this is an ideal time to try the product and get involved in our open community. Ultimately, we believe strong participation in a community-driven effort like Sakai is the best way to control your own destiny. Feel free to contact me directly at if you would like additional information.

More information about the original lawsuit, the patent pledge and the re-examination can be found on the Sakai website.

Other links about the trial and patent you may find useful:


8 Responses

  1. […] the words of Michael Korcuska, Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation, “That re-examination will happen and we continue […]

  2. […] Michael Korkuska (Sakai Executive Director) blogged about the decision and it’s impact on Sakai and the industry as […]

  3. […] Director Michael Korcuska has posted a response on his blog. In my opinion, it hits all the right notes and is well worth reading in its entirety. […]

  4. According to The Chronicle, Blackboard has asked “ban the company [D2L] from future sales of its course-management system in the United States”. Not saying you are wrong, but this is new info after you posted.

  5. I think Blackboard is going to lose the war though. You can’t keep a market you exploit with bunk patents and dated technology.

  6. […] Korcuska (Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation): Blackboard-Desire2Learn Verdict This is certainly not either the end or, frankly, the most important part of the ongoing patent […]

  7. […] ‘official response‘ from the Sakai Foundation on Michael Korcuska’s […]

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