The beginning of December brings with it more talk of open source and software patents. Believe it or not, though, Microsoft and Novell aren't involved.
Instead, it's e-learning software provider Blackboard, Inc. and the Software Freedom Law Center on behalf of Moodle, Sakai and ATutor. In January 2006, Blackboard secured a U.S. patent for "Internet-based educational support and methods" that allow different users to have different levels of access.
The SFLC has asked the U.S. Patent Office to reconsider the patent and then revoke it. SFLC attorneys argue that the patent should not have been granted because the technology that it claims existed in open source e-learning systems from Moodle, Sakai and ATutor before Blackboard even existed.
Further, Ars Technica reports that the SFLC filed the formal reconsideration request only after failing in its attempts to negotiate an agreement with Blackboard under which the company would not assert the patent against open source projects.
Blackboard's general counsel is quoted as saying the company would not pursue litigation against open source projects or universities, but can't make the same promise about those who derive commercial benefit from the technology covered in the patent.