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Education Patents The Internet

Khan Academy Seeks Patent On Education A/B Testing 49

theodp writes: The Education Revolution will be patented. USPTO records show that Khan Academy is seeking a patent for Systems and Methods for Split Testing Educational Videos. From the patent application: "Systems and methods are provided for comparing different videos pertaining to a topic. Two different versions of an educational video may be compared using split comparison testing. A set of questions may be provided along with each video about the topic taught in the video. Users may view one of the videos and answer the questions. Data about the user responses may be aggregated and used to determine which video more effectively conveys information to the viewer based on the question responses." Now it's up to the USPTO to decide if something like the test and control studies conducted 40+ years ago (pdf) by the PLATO system to measure the effectiveness of different teaching methods would count as prior art. In response to an earlier post on Khan Academy's pending patents on learning computer programming and 'social programming,' Slashdot user Khan Academy said that the nonprofit is using patents for good, so not to worry.
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Khan Academy Seeks Patent On Education A/B Testing

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  • Uh huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by waspleg ( 316038 ) on Friday January 01, 2016 @07:05PM (#51223813) Journal

    Gandalf: Don't... tempt me Frodo! I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand, Frodo. I would use this ring from a desire to do good... But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.

    Some how I think Sal Khan is less high minded than Gandalf...

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Yeah, I can only think of a couple of instances when patents were essentially opened to everyone, both of them automotive. The first was when Volvo invented the three-point seatbelt, patented it, and then declared that everyone could use it because they felt it was a moral obligation to reduce automobile crash deaths. The second more recent example was when Tesla announced that its patents would be free to use. I'm mildly on the fence if that will hold out or not. The seatbelt was a fairly simple device
      • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Friday January 01, 2016 @09:06PM (#51224429)
        Patents should be granted and immediately sold exclusively to the government, who can then open them up for everyone to use. A good example of how this works is the photography patent which was sold by Louis Daguerre to the French government, who opened the technology to the world. In this way we fix all the greatest problems with patents in one swoop. No more patent portfolios that create barriers to entry for innovative new startups, no more frivolous patent lawsuits about square looking smartphones, no more chilling effects based on the threat of being sued, no more protection money (aka licensing/royalties) rackets, and if the government must buy all potential patents then there is a balance between income (from patent examination fees) and expenditure (from buying the granted patents) so that the worst excesses of the current system are automatically held in check.
        • Patents should be granted and immediately sold exclusively to the government, who can then open them up for everyone to use.

          Wouldn't not granting the patents in the first place be more efficient? Patents are an artificial monopoly, protected by the government, so the government has the power not to honor patents that don't benefit the public. There's no natural analog to patents and other so-called "intellectual" property, unlike real property, which can be found in the territorial instincts of many animals.

        • Do the sellers get to determine the price of the sale? Who computes the market value for something that has only one seller and only one buyer? The amount of R&D that went into an idea, the potential revenue from the item's sale, and the startup capital needed to start production ... these are hard things to compute, and I doubt they could be fairly computed.

      • Yeah, I can only think of a couple of instances when patents were essentially opened to everyone, both of them automotive.

        Another one is the QR Code patent, yet another automotive-related one.
        • by TWX ( 665546 )
          I do think it's kind of funny that the automotive industry seems to have a better altruism record on intellectual property than the IT industry. It's also interesting that the auto companies, at least the historically-American ones, have been more apt to selling or spinning-off their non-automotive components when times get tough, even if those units are profitable or show a degree of potential for it. The financing banks come to mind.

          It's like they actually want to make cars and trucks instead of dive
  • by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Friday January 01, 2016 @07:29PM (#51223929)
    As the summary states, Khan follows Twitter's patent pledge [github.com]. This is a good first step as far as it goes, but it still explicitly allows for offensive litigation if the "inventor" agrees. That's not sufficient. At the very minimum, Khan should adopt a clear, irrevocable policy never to enforce patents against open source projects, like many Patent Commons participants [patent-commons.org]. Ideally it should partner with Creative Commons to work out an even stronger patent license, consistent with its mission. CC has previously developed model patent licenses and I'm sure they'd be happy to help.

    If the Khan Academy user who originally posted in Slashdot in response is reading this -- please bring these resources to the attention of management.
    • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Friday January 01, 2016 @09:14PM (#51224481)
      That doesn't work. What if Khan gets a new management and/or new owners? They can change the rules and repudiate all those promises, no matter what. For example, Google used to be trustworthy in the early days, now they are an evil spying organisation who takes so much heat that even the founders are distancing themselves with a nondescript holding company called alphabet. If it can happen to Google, who had so much promise in 1999, then you betcha it will happen to Khan once the pressure of economics start to bite them. Trusting the intentions of companies is simply a woeful approach to economic decision making.
      • An irrevocable patent pledge is intended to be precisely that; it's a legal document that is written to carry weight regardless of changes of ownership or management. Whether it will stand in court when tested remains to be seen, but that problem applies also to free content and open source licenses and other legal tools for sharing of information and ideas. KA can be expected to at least do one thing, which is to use the best available legal tools to create a broader framework of reuse consistent with its
        • An irrevocable patent pledge is intended to be precisely that; it's a legal document that is written to carry weight regardless of changes of ownership or management. Whether it will stand in court when tested remains to be seen, but that problem applies also to free content and open source licenses and other legal tools for sharing of information and ideas.

          Such a patent pledge document is pure theatre, and should not be confused with open source licenses. The former relies on *the* issuing company beha

        • Pledge schmedge already. Privacy policies certainly aren't enforcable when a business is taken over, so why would these be?

    • But didn't Sesame street basically do this? They weren't giving an explicit B, but if the kids became less engaged than some metric suggested they should be then a B was created.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday January 01, 2016 @07:37PM (#51223971) Journal

    I actually read the patent application and it is bullshit; the summary isn't misleading. Normally when a Slashdot headline says "Company X trying to patent Y", that really means Company X is trying to patent some specific invention RELATED to Y. Not this time. They're actually trying to patent A/B testing of videos.

    To prevent this patent from being issued, someone needs to send USPTO -printed- prior art such as a magazine or journal article describing A/B testing of educational videos. Along with the printed prior art, they need to include a "301" letter. The letter and prior art will become part of the patent file which should be examined before any patent is issued.

    • by gnupun ( 752725 )

      someone needs to send USPTO -printed- prior art such as a magazine or journal article describing A/B testing of educational videos

      Why videos, let alone educational? It can be any content, like pictures or ads. Just because you change the content or data structure does not mean it's novel -- a requirement for patents.

    • Khan Academy needs to stop this. I have never donated to Khan Academy, but I hope that anyone who has will stop donating. We don't need more bullshit patents, even for "good". If every good cause and non-profit starts to patent bullshit ideas, things are only going to get worse for everyone.

  • by stevez67 ( 2374822 ) on Friday January 01, 2016 @07:58PM (#51224087)

    There's no need to patent the incredibly obvious when patenting the merely obvious will do!

  • Oblig (Score:4, Funny)

    by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Friday January 01, 2016 @08:03PM (#51224115) Homepage

    khaaaaaan!

  • by BlueCoder ( 223005 ) on Friday January 01, 2016 @08:41PM (#51224313)

    They are creating a patent portfolio so they can counter-sue other companies that may sue them. Doesn't matter if the patents are bogus.. it takes time and lawyers fees to go through the federal courts. And the patent system isn't broken?

    We need a patent system with more critical examiners. But the examiners are understaffed and only seem to rubber stamp patents anyway so lets create a separate court system for just patents; with an overstaffed public defenders office whose job it is to strike down patents. All patent must go before a judge before they are officially approved. Furthermore anyone in the public can sue to challenge the patent to augment the public defenders. And the judge must have the special responsibility to not approve a patent if he has any doubt. Meaning it's up to whomever submitted the patent to prove their case and that all issues have been brought up. Make it mandatory that the patent has to serve the public's interest; and in conjunction with that judgement make the term length of the patent variable. Furthermore the court should have the ability to set the valuation of a patent and to forcibly grant licenses to others.

  • I call absolute bullshit on this one. Language testing is about measuring a student's performance against one or more criteria. What Khan is apparently hoping to patent is a method for measuring the effectiveness of a piece of media, in this case video.

    In the realm of text readability analysis this has a long history, perhaps the best-known technique being the Gunnar Fog Index, invented in 1952. The ubiquitous Cloze test, invented in the early fifties, was originally intended to measure and grade the readin

  • I have long stated that I feel like the entire patent system is just a useless waste of time and needs to be simply removed from the legal code of the USA in its entirety. The professed reason for why patents exist is to help small time inventors to be able to profit from their engineering efforts and to ensure that their ideas are protected for a limited time, as per the U.S. Constitution:

    Article I, Section 8
    Congress shall have power....

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

    Kahn Academy is not even trying to accomplish this goal themselves. It is merely a defensive patent to ensure they do

  • Wicat System has prior art. Massive, government military contracted, prior art.

  • It looks like they're trying to patent experiments.

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