Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Pending Proceedings Between the University of Oregon and DMG
The following frequently asked questions are intended to address your questions or concerns regarding the currently pending litigation between DMG and the University of Oregon.
- Q: What is Dynamic Measurement Group?
- A: Dynamic Measurement Group (DMG) is a private educational company started by Roland Good and Ruth Kaminski in 2002. The company is dedicated to supporting success for children and schools. It is the official home of DIBELS research, development and training.
- Q: What is DIBELS®?
- A: The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) is a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of early literacy skills from kindergarten through sixth grade. The measures are designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of early literacy and early reading skills. DIBELS is widely recognized as a leading literacy assessment tool. IDEL® is a Spanish-language literacy assessment designed to be equivalent to DIBELS.
- Q: What is DIBELS Next®?
- A: DIBELS Next is the current version of DIBELS introduced by DMG in 2010. It replaced DIBELS® 6th Edition, which had been in use since 2003. The University of Oregon, through its DIBELS Data System, has continued to distribute the old DIBELS 6th Edition to schools for their internal use, but the University has not been a distributor of DIBELS Next. Only DMG and its publishers are authorized to distribute DIBELS Next.
- Q: Who uses DIBELS?
- A: Education institutions across the country use DIBELS to assess pre- and early-student literacy skills to identify at-risk students and help them achieve important reading outcomes. Roughly 25 percent of all students in the United States are assessed through DIBELS.
- Q: Who owns the rights to the DIBELS trademark?
- A: DIBELS has been a federally registered trademark of DMG since 2003. Ten years later the University filed an action to cancel this registration.
- Q: Who owns the DIBELS copyright?
- A: DMG is registered as the owner of various copyright registrations for DIBELS 6th Edition
and DIBELS Next.
UO has made no claims that it owns a copyright in DIBELS Next. Its claims to ownership
of the copyright in DIBELS 6th have been dismissed by the United States District Court
for the District of Oregon.
The court also dismissed all contract claims filed by the University as a basis for any claim to ownership of the DIBELS materials. (The court has deferred ruling on other issues in the case until discovery is complete.)
As a result, the ability of teachers and school systems to obtain and use the DIBELS copyrighted materials remains as it always has been. At this stage, the main question in the pending case is essentially, “who gets to use the DIBELS name” — not whether DMG and its licensees Amplify and Cambium can distribute the product currently labeled “DIBELS NEXT.”
- Q: What is the relationship between DMG and the University of Oregon?
- A: DMG is a separate, independent entity from the University of Oregon. DMG’s co-founders are the authors of the DIBELS line of assessment tools and the official benchmark goals for student assessment scores. The University has operated one of many data center websites where users can receive detailed reports on the scores generated by the DIBELS assessments. The University has also, with DMG’s permission, been a source for free downloads of the DIBELS 6th Edition assessment tools.
- Q: Hasn’t the University accepted DMG’s ownership of the DIBELS trademark and copyrights
in the past?
- A: Yes. For almost 10 years beginning in 2003, the University accepted and recognized DMG as the proprietary source of the DIBELS measures being distributed by DMG, UO and DMG’s commercial publishers, and as the owner of the DIBELS trademark. With DMG’s encouragement and assistance, the University’s DIBELS Data System provided a service that enabled schools to generate online analysis and reports of their students’ DIBELS test results. The University required users to accept an Educational Use Agreement acknowledging that the DIBELS assessments and mark were proprietary to DMG when downloading DIBELS materials. In addition to adhering to an Educational Use Agreement fully recognizing DMG’s trademark ownership since 2003, the University conducted a thorough review of DIBELS in 2005 and its own staff subsequently drafted a contract clearly recognizing DMG’s ownership of the DIBELS trademark and copyrights. It acted in accordance with that fully negotiated but not executed contract for more than seven years.
- Q: Has DMG’s work benefited the University of Oregon?
- A: The University of Oregon has benefited immensely from its relationship with DMG. These benefits include the following:
- The University has enhanced its reputation as a leading research center specifically with respect to early reading assessment.
- DMG’s founders have promoted the University’s data center to a
- DMG has promoted and funneled DIBELS users to the University’s data center, through which the University has made tens of millions of dollars.
- DMG has made significant financial donations to the University, including gifts of
nearly $1 million.
- DMG has also supported the University’s data system with advance
notice of its research and findings.
- DMG has a long history of seeking out and employing University students
- Q: Then what led to this lawsuit?
- A: DMG is not sure why, but in 2013, almost ten years after DMG federally registered the DIBELS trademark and almost seven years after the University and DMG concluded their discussions regarding ownership and rights to use DIBELS, the University filed petitions in the US Patent and Trademark Office seeking to cancel DMG’s longstanding registrations of its numerous DIBELS and IDEL marks, asserting that the University had prior rights to those marks. DMG made numerous requests to sit down with the University to see if their differences could be resolved by mutual agreement, but was repeatedly rebuffed.
The University also filed applications with the US Patent and Trademark Office to register the IDEL and DIBELS marks as its own; these applications were rejected by the US Patent and Trademark Office, but the cancellation proceedings are still pending.
In the face of these and other concerted efforts by the University to appropriate DMG’s intellectual property, and in order to prevent confusion in the educational community, DMG finally decided it had no choice but to take the matter to court for an impartial adjudication of the issues.
- Q: Will this lawsuit affect teachers, school districts, and students?
- A: No. First, it is important to note that this dispute does not concern the content of the DIBELS Next assessment tools, which have largely replaced DIBELS 6th in the marketplace. With one exception noted below, it is not really even a dispute about the content of DIBELS. Rather, this is primarily a dispute over who owns the DIBELS, IDEL, and related marks. Users of DIBELS 6th, whether they have obtained their materials from Voyager Sopris Learning, or from Amplify, or by download from the University website, should not be affected.
DMG also has lodged a complaint against the commercial “HiFi” app that UO recently launched in partnership with Hop Skip Technologies, and this suit could affect users of that app.
- Q: What is DMG seeking from the University through the lawsuit?
- A: DMG is primarily seeking to stop the University from conduct that it believes constitutes infringement, through which the University is taking DMG’s work as its own and misrepresenting the DIBELS and IDEL brands to users.
- Q: Why is the University criticizing DIBELS NEXT?
- A: Numerous school districts have embraced DIBELS NEXT. As noted above, the University is not authorized to distribute DIBELS NEXT, and in court papers and public reports, the University and its staff have sought to attack it. The UO’s criticisms are largely unrelated to the actual assessment measures themselves, but rather focus primarily on the appropriate benchmarks. Consistent with prior years, the DMG benchmarks identify approximately 39% of elementary school children as having less than adequate reading skills, where the University’s benchmarks identify over 70% of children in an average-performing school as reading below grade level. In DMG’s view, this is unreasonable and unworkable for schools seeking to determine how to allocate limited resources for remedial reading help. As of 6/21/2016, to the best of DMG’s knowledge, no state has adopted the University of Oregon’s benchmarks as statewide goals, whereas a number of states and major cities have recommended use of the DMG goals after considering the two competing recommended goals. For more information on this subject, see https://dibels.org/response_to_uo_goals.html