Goodwill Trumps Patent Value: Is BlackBoard Crunching the Numbers?

From Wikipedia, we learn…

"…Goodwill is … an important accounting concept that describes the value of a business entity not directly attributable to its tangible assets and liabilities…"

So Goodwill is something that a company wants to nurture, grow and be able to claim on its bottom line.

Whengoodwill is negative, it’s a liability – literally and it looks likeBlackBoard has not handled it’s recent patent acquisition in a veryvalue-generating way.

Some quotes from around the edu-blogosphere…

David Carter-Tod writes

"…Frankly, they should be ashamed. It’s a tissue of fabrication…"

Stephen Downes writes

"…This would be funny if it weren’t so ridiculous:…"

Rick’s Cafe Canadien writes

"…BlackBoard or Dr. Evil?…"

Peter Schilling writes

"…Blackboard seems to have a long-term strategy of … tryingto keep others out of the field by getting an absurdly broad patent forcommon uses of technology…"

Now, it may be that BlackBoard will soon come out with a press release saying that they are not going to enforce this patent or not going to go after Moodle, Sakai, Drupal, TWEN or any of the other open-source or commercial Learning Management/Course Management Systems (LMS/CMS) out there.

If so, they should have done that first. Many of the comments around the blogosphere are especially upset with the USPTO and they are couching their reaction to BlackBoard with careful terms to see if they do the right thing. There is a possibility for a big payoff in goodwill yet.

But time is running out. The mere announcement of this patent has drawn considerable vituperation on BlackBoard and as the meme spreads, it gets harder to reverse. Badwill is kind of sticky.

I surely see the need for a large corporation to patent its intellectual property. Heck, BlackBoard may have gotten this patent to defend against patent trolls who would pull the same thing against them that the educational community fears BlackBoard is going to pull now.

So the question for stockholders is whether the value of the patent is greater than the lost goodwill demonstrated by the comments above?

I doubt it.

The patent may not even withstand prior art and validity challenges and you can bet it will be challenged if BlackBoard gets all aggressive in this space. If they lose the patent, they lose twice – no patent and no goodwill.

Will Bb be heros or chumps? Stay tuned.

Comments are closed.