Illegitimate Patent Chills Distance Learning and University Education

San Francisco - An extremely broad patent claiming to cover almost all methods of online testing is coming under fire today. has used this illegitimate patent to demand payments from universities with distance education programs that give tests online. However, a patent reexamination application filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today shows that wasn't the first to come up with this testing method.

"Bogus patents like this one highlight the problems with the current patent system. This is a good example of exactly what needs to be fixed to make patents useful to innovators and educators alike," Schultz said.

In conjunction with Theodore C. McCullough of the Lemaire Patent Law Firm, EFF filed a request for reexamination with the United States Patent and Trademark Office showing that IntraLearn Software Corporation had been marketing an online test-taking system long before filed its patent request. But claims that its patent allows it to collect license fees for virtually all online testing methods, preventing educators from developing online coursework and communicating with students over the Internet. As online testing is critical to Internet education, the enforcement of this patent threats academic speech and academic freedom.

"Our nation's education system already faces severe budget constraints and a shortage of resources," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "We shouldn't be diverting resources away from teaching to pay off bogus patent threats."

The challenge to the patent is the second filing from EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects bad patents have on public and consumer interests. The first reexamination request was granted on Monday and involves a Clear Channel patent for a system and method of creating recordings of live performances, locking musical acts into using Clear Channel technology and blocking innovations by others.

Just last week, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the eBay v. MercExchange patent case, signaling how important patent issues are in today's economy. EFF filed an amicus brief in that case, asking justices to consider the critical free speech implications in its ruling.

For the full patent reexamination request:

For more on EFF's Patent Busting Project:

For more on IntraLearn Software:

For more on eBay v. MercExchange:


Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Jerry Goguen
IntraLearn Software Corporation

Theodore C. McCullough
Lemaire Patent Law Firm

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