BlackBoard Pledge Redux – Can’t Buy a Clue

News of BlackBoard’s pledge is still pinballing around the blogpsphere. I subscribe to a stored search for the term ‘blackboard patent’ and it retrieves dozens of blog posts every day since they made the Pledge. The great majority of these posts have not been positive or grateful to BlackBoard.

I have really been trying to get my head around this whole quagmire that BlackBoard is in. Clearly they did not expect the storm of response that they got from the patent. Perhaps they were hoping for a quick settlement with Desire2Learn? If not, then Plan B surely has to be making them re-think this strategy.

On the plus side, they have a patent. It took them 6 years and probably a hundred thousand dollars in legal costs, but they got it.

On the minus side, they have a whole bunch of people – many of them their customers – real upset with them.

They have the largest consortium of higher education institutions telling them to just drop it.

They have a lawsuit that is going to cost 7 figures before its over and it might result in an invalidated patent. Imagine the blogstorm after that! I gotta believe that the accountants weren’t consulted on this one.

They have emboldened a competitor and given them untold free, positive press. Before this lawsuit, I had hardly ever heard of Desire2Learn.

They have poked a stick at the larger open source community and woken the GPL giant in the manifestation of Professor Eben Moglen. Take a listen to Eben’s lunchtime remarks and you realize that he is not going to back down one iota. He cannot be bluffed or bought. He is your worst legal nightmare – a lawyer with a cause and a law professor with all the time in the world to devote to it.

Let’s say they win this patent suit.

They either put D2L out of business or they force a hefty payment/royalty. If they make it too hefty, D2L will declare bankruptcy and all of their customers will rush into BlackBoard’s loving arms …. uh …. I don’t think so.

An now the Pledge which is the biggest boon to open source LMSes since the Internet. BlackBoard doesn’t just want to go out of business themselves, they want to kill the commercial LMS market for everyone. If the Pledge wasn’t such a lawyered-up, weasly-worded, condescending piece of crap, I would almost thank them. Did it clear the air or straighten things out? Ohhhhh, NOW we understand, all is forgiven? Not according to EDUCAUSE and Sakai. And BlackBoard’s careful and misleading excerpting of the Sakai response didn’t win them any friends either. Did they think we wouldn’t read it for ourselves?

Open Source is where all D2L customers are going if they are forced into bankruptcy, methinks. With all the money saved by not purchasing a commercial/proprietary system like BlackBoard’s, schools can hire more programmers to contribute to Moodle, Sakai, et al.

This is NOT rocket science.

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