Allegations that Blackboard Inc., the No. 1 course- management software firm, is using costly litigation to injure a smaller rival, Desire2Learn (D2L), are part of the backdrop to a federal trial set to begin on Feb. 11. Blackboard has sued for patent infringement, which D2L denies.

Based on interviews with lawyers and others familiar with the case, both sides appear to be digging in, and a pre-trial settlement seems unlikely. The next major step is expected to be a full-blown jury trial in federal district court in Lufkin, Texas. Blackboard filed its suit about 18 months ago.

The case has become something...

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