While at EDUCAUSE, I had opportunities to sit down with both Blackboard’s General Counsel Matthew Small and the Desire2Learn executive team. In the spirit of diplomacy, everything in this post has been reviewed by both sides, and there are aspects of our conversations that will remain private.
In my conversation with Matt Small, we spent a fair bit of time talking about the impacts of patent assertion on the educational technology ecosystem. I emphasized that, even if I thought that Blackboard’s patent were valid, I would still oppose their efforts because of the damage that an environment of patent litigation will have on innovation. I also let him know that I believe there are others in the community who feel the same way. (I don’t want to presume to speak for anyone but myself.) In turn, the position that he articulated to me was pretty consistent with his public statements.
My conversations with the Desire2Learn team included CEO John Baker, COO Jeremy Auger, General Counsel Diane Lank, and Director of Marketing John Mcleod. The main message I took away from that conversation was pretty much the same one that they recently posted in their patent litigation blog, i.e., that they view themselves as fighting for the interests of the entire educational community, including universities, Open Source projects, and proprietary competitors.
Thanks to both parties for making the time to speak with me.