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Apart from all of the above, Coppercore and LAMS were the first software systems to implement Learning Design concepts, and so any subsequent work after these systems would be affected by this “prior art” - again, if a concept already exists or is anticipated in an existing system, then it makes later patents invalid. So I think there are strong arguments against any attempt at patenting generic activity structures because of a lack of novelty, their “obviousness”, and the existing prior art.

Having said all this, it is worth noting that the systems for granting and litigating patents have become deeply flawed in certain countries (especially the US), so that despite all of the above, inappropriate patents can and are sometimes used against the public good, even in education. So there is no guarantee that a patent fight could not erupt - only that there are good grounds to believe that such an attempt to take something beneficial away from the common good, and to then give a monopoly right to a commercial endeavour based on restricted use of a previously common good, would fail. But let us hope that none of us ever have to tread this path - it would be a colossal waste of time for those seeking to build a better world through better education.

James

3. simon_shurville - may 17th, 2007 at 2:23 am

Dear James

Thank you for a detailed and reassuring reply. I am in complete agreement with everything you write here. I was particularly impressed by the idea that “all possible combinations of generic activities are anticipated by the way the LAMS software operates, and hence any possible copyright in them vests in the LAMS Foundation (which owns the LAMS software and makes it freely available as open source software)” and by the noble sentiment that “The LAMS Foundation would assign copyright in all possible generic structures to the public domain (or failing this, the most permissive open content license available, say CC BY).” It is lucky for us all that LAMS emerged from the community of “those seeking to build a better world through better education”.

A great blog so far and I look forward to further installments, Simon

4. ken udas – may 17th, 2007 at 9:34 am

James&Simon, this is great. I am really enjoying the direction that this discussion is taking. As I was reading through the comments I was thinking a bit about the practical limitations and flaws of the US intellectual property regime. I too am not a lawyer or a self-taught expert on IP law, but it does seem that the notion of ownership and commercialization of intellectual assets that were created with the intent to be used openly for the public good is quite contentious. That is, the dialog can become pretty polarized pretty quickly, which in my estimation is good. How the debate, particularly around the Non-Commercial restriction is framed is important because respectful but critical dialog will be the quickest way of addressing the practical problem that James identified in his post.

So I remain uncertain how to address this challenge: if most of my colleagues only feel comfortable to share their work on a non-commercial basis, then is it better to encourage them to share their work (and hence ultimately improve education) rather than trying to persuade them to change their mind about allowing commercial use (and run the risk of them not sharing if they are not persuaded)?

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