OVERNIGHT TECH: House to vote on patent bill Thursday

THE LEDE: The House is expected to consider the Innovation Act — the patent reform bill authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) — on Thursday.

After a Tuesday Rules Committee meeting, which will move forward eight of the proposed 26 amendments for the House to consider, the entire chamber is likely to vote on the amendments and the bill Thursday, according to a Rules Committee aide.

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Among the amendments advancing is Goodlatte’s manager amendment, which he told the Rules Committee is “mostly comprised of technical edits,” and an amendment from Judiciary ranking member Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), ranking member of the Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property.

The amendment from Conyers and Watt would substitute Goodlatte’s bill for their own, similar to the substitute amendment they offered during the daylong Judiciary markup of the Innovation Act last month.

During Tuesday’s Rules meeting, Watt reiterated his criticisms of the bill and its timing. During the markup, he and Conyers questioned the Innovation Act’s provisions that would alter the court system’s authority over patent lawsuits.

“We cannot support the provisions in the bill that will upend our civil justice system for all patent holders,” Watt said Tuesday.

“If this legislation were restricted to trolls, I think you would have broad bipartisan support,” he said, but it “imposes major burdens on all participants in the litigation system.”

Watt and others also criticized Goodlatte’s attempts to get the bill passed quickly.

In addition to the Goodlatte and Watt amendments, the House will consider an amendment from Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) that would require more transparency in demand letters; an amendment from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) that would remove the bill’s provision that allows tech companies to intervene when their customers are sued for patent infringement; an amendment from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) that would remove the bill’s provision that prevents patent applicants from challenging Patent Office decisions in district court; and amendments from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) that increase the bill’s protections for small businesses and require a study on the economic impact of the bill.

The House will also consider a second amendment from Watt that would change the requirement of the court to force the losing party of a patent infringement suit to pay the winning party’s legal fees.

FTC talks kids, drones: The four sitting commissioners of the Federal Trade Commission discussed online privacy for minors and privacy implications of drones with the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Trade during a Tuesday hearing.

The four commissioners — Democrats Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman, and Julie Brill, along with Republicans Maureen Ohlhausen and Joshua Wright — told Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) that they are generally supportive of the goals of his Do Not Track Kids Act, which would limit the way websites and mobile apps can collect and use data from users who are minors. Brill told Barton that she is “particularly interested in exploring the eraser button concept” in his bill, which would require websites to take down a minor’s content at that user’s request. Barton said he hopes to have a hearing on his bill “sometime in the spring.”

The commissioners also discussed the way their privacy guidelines can be applied to drones, which became a hot topic after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s announcement Sunday that his company hopes to deliver packages by drone.

Brill pointed to the agency’s report from last year that encouraged companies dealing with user data to incorporate privacy protections from the outset, present users with simplified choices and be transparent with how they collect and use data. The report “outlined concepts that are applicable with respect to different technologies,” she said.

“These are the kinds of concepts that could be imported into the drone framework.”

Wheeler scares consumer groups: Public Knowledge and Free Press are calling on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to clarify remarks he made Monday in Ohio in which he signaled he is uninterested in cracking down on the data caps and tiered-pricing models of broadband providers.

"We’re seeing the market evolve in such a way that there will be variations in pricing. There will be variations in service," he said. "I'm a firm believer in the market."

He also made comments that, at least on the surface, seem to contradict the agency's net neutrality rules.

“I think we’re also going to see a two-sided market where Netflix might say ‘well, I’ll pay in order to make sure that you might receive, my subscriber might receive, the best possible transmission of this movie.’  I think we want to let those kinds of things evolve,” Wheeler said. 

Free Press's Craig Aaron and Derek Turner warned that allowing such practices would be "antithetical" to Wheeler's promises to promote competition. The group urged him to "correct the record and commit to staying on the side of the Internet-using, cable-watching, competition-loving public."

Public Knowledge's Michael Weinberg wrote that Wheeler's comments still leave room for studying the issue of data caps. He argued that the second comment isn't necessarily at odds with net neutrality. But he urged Wheeler to clarify his position. 

"These are important questions that need to be answered soon," Weinberg wrote. "If Chairman Wheeler’s version of net neutrality is different from everyone else’s version of net neutrality, we need to know that sooner rather than later."

Online gambling hearing: The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee will hold a Tuesday morning hearing on online gaming. The hearing will cover the regulatory landscape after the Justice Department's loosened online gaming restrictions. The panel will also discuss Rep. Joe Barton's (R-Texas) Internet Poker Freedom Act.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

The White House endorsed a House bill aimed at cracking down on frivolous patent lawsuits.

The leaders of the House Energy and Committee announced that they will begin re-writing the Communications Act, a foundational law that regulates the television, telephone and Internet industries. 

The Obama administration said it plans to review the privacy implications of facial recognition technology.

A bipartisan group of four representatives are asking House leadership to hold off on patent reform until next year.

Lawmakers want new privacy rules to protect consumers from delivery drones.

 

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