I’ve been thinking lately about the fact that almost none of the prior art listed in the Wikipedia entry was in Blackboard’s patent filing. It’s remarkable, really, since they are legally obligated to list any potential prior art of which they are aware at the time of filing. Failing to do so would constitute fraud. This is just one of several ways in which the application appears to be very sloppy.
I was thinking about this again when I received an email from a colleague pointing out that Prometheus is not yet listed in our prior art documentation effort. And it looks like Prometheus could present a really big legal problem for Blackboard.For those of you who weren’t around at the time, Prometheus was a Cold Fusion-based LMS built by George Washington University, turned into a commercial product, and eventually bought by Blackboard. At the time it was purchased, there was a widespread understanding that Blackboard wanted to buy it and kill it because it was a more advanced system. (See, for example, this list of features from an archived version of their web site dated November 28, 1999.)
Prometheus very well could be a strong example of prior art. And the fact that Blackboard purchased them and now owns their intellectual property doesn’t matter in terms of whether the system can count against the Blackboard patent. (The same would be true for WebCT and Web Course in a Box.) On the other hand (as my colleague pointed out in his email), since Blackboard owns Prometheus, they can’t very well argue that they weren’t aware of it during the patent application process. One could argue that they knowingly omitted the reference to prior art in their application.
If anyone has information about Prometheus, please enter the basics into the Wikipedia page and add any details you have about functionality circa 1998 to the appropriate page on NoEduPatents.org.