Stephen Downes, over at Stephen's Web (one of the oldest and largest sites devoted to all things education) has just posted a response to Blackboard's desperation move today--"The Blackboard Patent Pledge":
"This is the big news today, of course. "The Blackboard Patent Pledge is a promise by the company to never assert its issued or pending course management system software patents against open source software or home-grown course management systems."
That's good, though it's pretty clearly a response to the Free Software Foundation's success in getting the Blackboard patent reviewed. Better to cut a deal before you don't have anything to protect, hm?
And even then, it's not much of a promise. As the Sakai Foundation notes, in its response, "the Sakai Foundation and EDUCAUSE find it difficult to give the wholehearted endorsement we had hoped might be possible. Some of Sakai's commercial partners and valued members of the open source community will not be protected under this pledge."
In particular, Blackboard wanted to reserve the right to take action against colleges and universities, something it needs to do, apparently, because of its current case against the Canadian company Desire2Learn.
Bottom line? It's a cynical ploy intended to divide its opponents. The appeal should be carried through. The patent should be invalidated. Blackboard's nonsensical case against Desire2Learn should be crushed."