So far no one blogging the Blackboard patent affair seems to be "following the money" (see Stephen Downes' very helpful aggregation of commentary). Only Kurt Bonk has mentioned Microsoft's investment, here. Ownership of Blackboard is a piece in the puzzle lying behind the patent and the suit against D2L, I have spent too much time today trying to decipher US Securities and Exchange Commission 13-D filings for Blackboard, and adding only a little to the information in my previous post. Blackboard is being picked up by many big investment management companies and is included in many portfolios. Major investors include Morgan Stanley, Waddell and Reed, Sandler Capital Management and Federated Investors. Of these only Federated Investors (Wikipedia article) seems to be worth a closer look. Federated is huge, one of the largest fund management firms in the world, but it is still a family business, run by Chris Donahue, son of the founder, John Donahue (American Executive article). The Donahues are among the biggest individual donors to the Republican National Committee and to the Bush family (see, e.g. Campaign Donors Cash in on Jeb Connection). With Federated, Carlyle and Oak Hill all in the Bb shareholders club along with Bill Gates, Microsoft and Pearson, Blackboard might be seen as a bit of a darling. So the question becomes why on two fronts: why Bb, and why the patent and litigation route? Is it that Bb's behaviour (or the behaviour of the company's principals) makes it attractive to big-time buccaneering neocons, or is the company being gently encouraged in this direction by its owners? And/or is there another angle to be explored? One to do with shaping the tools and, because of the nature of the VLE/LMS toolkit, shaping the institutions that shape the minds that make the world what it is?
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