Blackboard SVP To Address Sakai Conference

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12.04.2006—Organizers of the Sakai Foundation have said—and Blackboard Inc. itself now confirms—that a Blackboard representative will speak at the upcoming Sakai conference in Atlanta. Matthew Small, Blackboard's senior vice president and general counsel, will speak Dec. 6 at the conference in what is described as an "open discussion" with Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center.

As we reported previously, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) last month filed a request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to reexamine Blackboard's patent on "technology used for Internet-based education support systems and methods." It had filed that request on behalf of Sakai, Moodle and ATutor, developers of open-source e-learning solutions.

The SFLC has alluded to the threat of a monopoly on e-learning solutions with the Blackboard patent, and the organization's clients—including Sakai Foundation Chairman Joseph Hardin—have said that such a patent could stifle innovation in the education community.

Blackboard in July used its patent as the basis for a patent-infringement suit against competitor Desire2Learn, a commercial software developer. However, Blackboard's Matthew Small has said that his company does not have any desire to target open-source developers with such suits and that Blackboard is supportive of organizations like Sakai and Moodle.

Small told us last week, ""Because we brought a lawsuit against a for-profit competitor, people are worried that we'd bring lawsuits elsewhere. We've been very proactive in telling schools and the open-source community that we're not interested in them. [We] support Sakai and Moodle. We'd like to talk to them, engage with them, but they've said that they don't want to talk to us."

Now Blackboard and Sakai will have their chance. Wednesday Blackboard's Small and the SFLC's Moglen will meet in a discussion Dec. 6 during the lunch hour at S=the sixth-annual Sakai Conference in Atlanta.

Sakai's Hardin sent out a note to its developer list this weekend announcing the event.

"We are fortunate to have Matthew Small, attorney for Blackboard Inc, agree on short notice to attend the Atlanta Sakai
conference. He will be speaking on Wednesday, [Dec. 6], at an open discussion session over the lunch hour with one of our keynote speakers, Eben Moglen, from the Software Freedom Law Center. We hope to have an open and informative
discussion of the Blackboard patent and the recently filed SFLC re-examination petition that seeks to have it revoked."

We'll bring you more information on the event as it becomes available. In the meantime, you can read our previous coverage of the Blackboard/SFLC issue—with exclusive quotes from Blackboard—by following the link below.

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About the author: Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com.

Have any additional questions? Want to share your story? Want to pass along a news tip? Contact Dave Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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