Skip Navigation

Press Release Archive

Blackboard Announces Patent Pledge in Support of Open Source Software and Home-Grown Course Management Systems

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB), a leading provider of enterprise technology to the education community, announced today a "Patent Pledge" in support of learning institutions worldwide that use or develop open source and home-grown course management software as well as the commercial entities supporting them.

In summary, 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. The Blackboard Pledge is legally binding, irrevocable and worldwide in scope.

"As a member of the e-Learning community, we are committed to the open exchange of ideas, collaboration and innovation," said Michael Chasen, president and chief executive officer of Blackboard. "This pledge is part of that commitment and our continued efforts to work collaboratively with the e- Learning community to foster greater openness and interoperability."

Specifically, the Pledge commits Blackboard not to assert U.S. Patent No. 6,988,138 and many other pending patent applications against the development, use or distribution of open source software or home-grown course management systems anywhere in the world, to the extent that such systems are not bundled with proprietary software.

As part of the Pledge, Blackboard promises never to pursue patent actions against anyone using such systems including professors contributing to open source projects, open source initiatives, commercially developed open source add-on applications to proprietary products and vendors hosting and supporting open source applications. Blackboard is also extending its pledge to many specifically identified open source initiatives within the course management system space whether or not they may include proprietary elements within their applications, such as Sakai, Moodle, ATutor, Elgg and Bodington.

Commitments to limit potential patent protection are uncommon, particularly for enterprise software companies. The Patent Pledge -- in terms of its sweeping scope, strong commitment and public nature -- is unprecedented for a product company such as Blackboard.

In developing its Patent Pledge, Blackboard solicited the input from its clients, the open source community and EDUCAUSE, a leading association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. According to a joint statement from the EDUCAUSE and Sakai Boards of Directors:

    "We particularly welcome the inclusion of pending patents, the
    clarification on the commercial support, customization, hosting or
    maintenance of open source systems and the worldwide nature of
    Blackboard's pledge. We also appreciate the willingness of Blackboard to
    continue with frank and direct dialogue with our two organizations and
    with other higher education representatives and groups to work toward
    addressing these problems of community concern."

Blackboard has also received a large amount of support from the e-Learning community around the world:

    "In our experience with Blackboard, they've always been extremely
    collaborative," said David Ernst, CIO and Assistant Vice Chancellor for
    California State University. "I believe that Blackboard's pledge of
    support to the open source community demonstrates their intention to
    continue fostering collaboration while defending their intellectual
    property. It's encouraging and a move I hope the education community will
    applaud."

    "I am particularly pleased that this pledge was created in collaboration
    with leadership from EDUCAUSE and Sakai.  Collaborations like this will be
    an important component of building future partnerships, in addition to
    responding to the technology and policy needs of teachers and learners,"
    stated Sharon Pitt, executive director of the Division of Instructional
    Technology at George Mason University.

    "This pledge clearly allows a sensible and clear way forward for the
    educational community," remarked Professor Alan Farley, Director,
    Institute of Teaching and Learning, Deakin University, Victoria,
    Australia.
    "We wish to acknowledge the company's actions and express our appreciation
    to Blackboard in committing to continue to foster creativity and
    collaboration within the e-Learning community.  Such a response can only
    benefit the teachers and practitioners, the learners, Blackboard, and
    indeed the wider e-Learning community," said Gordon Suddaby of the
    Australasian Council on Open, Distance and e-Learning (ACODE).

    "This is a bold move and one which I can only applaud," said John
    Hemingway, chief information officer of Sheffield Hallam University.

The Blackboard Patent Pledge along with many Frequently Asked Questions can be found at http://www.blackboard.com/patent.

About Blackboard Inc.

Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) is a leading provider of enterprise software applications and related services to the education industry. Founded in 1997, Blackboard enables educational innovations everywhere by connecting people and technology. Millions of people use Blackboard everyday at academic institutions around the globe, including colleges, universities, K-12 schools and other education providers, as well as textbook publishers and student- focused merchants that serve education providers and their students. Blackboard is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Blackboard

Educate. Innovate. Everywhere.(TM)

Any statements in this press release about future expectations, plans and prospects for Blackboard and other statements containing the words "believes," "anticipates," "plans," "expects," "will," and similar expressions, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements as a result of various important factors, including the factors discussed in the "Risk Factors" section of our Form 10-Q filed on November 9, 2006 with the SEC. In addition, the forward- looking statements included in this press release represent the Company's views as of February 1, 2007. The Company anticipates that subsequent events and developments will cause the Company's views to change. However, while the Company may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, the Company specifically disclaims any obligation to do so. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing the Company's views as of any date subsequent to February 1, 2007. Nothing contained in this press release should be construed to expand the rights included in the actual Blackboard Patent Pledge available at http://www.blackboard.com/patent.

SOURCE Blackboard Inc.

CONTACT: Melissa Chotiner, Senior Manager Public Relations of Blackboard Inc., +1-202-463-4860 ext. 2404,
mchotiner@blackboard.com; or Amy Storey of Fleishman-Hillard Inc., +1-202-828-8819, storeya@fleishman.com, for Blackboard Inc.