What You Should Know About Khan Academy’s Patent Application for A/B Testing

CAN THIS BE PATENTED? Why is Khan Academy, asks Inside Higher Ed, filing a patent for “what effectively amounts to A/B testing in education?” Ever since Slashdot reported on the patent application, a flurry of commenters have expressed concerns over why the nonprofit would try to lay claim to a practice that’s long been an industry standard.

Upon closer digging, e-Literate blogger Michael Feldstein believes that “Khan Academy did the right thing.” The patent in question is an “Innovator’s Agreement,” which includes a commitment that the patent holder cannot use it offensively to sue others. One of the main purposes of the patent is to serve as a safeguard against, for instance, patent trolls. Feldstein writes:

To recap the basic idea, companies that adopt the agreement give the inventors who are named on the patent application veto power over the patent’s assertion, except in cases where the company is acting in self-defense in response to legal action against it.

There’s even a provision, he notes, that the patent holder can defend others who are getting sued.

“I think Khan Academy did the right thing by adopting the Innovator’s Agreement, and I think we should all encourage other holders of education-relevant patents to do the same,” Feldstein writes. “Schools could even go so far as to make institution of the agreement a contractual requirement.”

The patent application is a long process, notes Inside Higher Ed. A final decision on the patent may not be published until early 2018. 

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