OVERNIGHT TECH: House poised to approve patent bill

THE LEDE: Patent reform advocates are confident that the Innovation Act will pass the House Thursday without undergoing significant changes. 

The Innovation Act, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), passed that committee last month with a bipartisan vote of 33-5.

The fact that 12 Judiciary Democrats voted for Goodlatte's bill, despite the fact that ranking member Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) opposed it, is a good sign, Internet Association President Michael Beckerman said. 

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Beckerman said he is expecting “a pretty strong bipartisan vote” on the House floor.

Reform advocates said they don’t expect the substitute from Conyers and Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) — ranking member on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property — to pass. 

The amendment “completely waters down and guts the bill,” one advocate said.

Other amendments that would dilute the measure are unlikely to pass, advocates said. 

Advocates said that amendments from Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) are more likely to pass. Polis’s amendment would require more transparency in demand letters, and Jackson Lee’s amendment would require a study on the economic impact of the bill.

Matt Levy, patent counsel at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said the bill “is not perfect, but it has a lot of the key features to deal with the patent troll problem.”

Levy’s group is “very hopeful that they will pass and the battleground will shift to the Senate,” he said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has scheduled a hearing for his patent reform bill for Dec. 17.

Ramirez on native ads: Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, warned online advertisers against misleading Internet users through native advertisements, or ads made to look like the editorial content that surrounds them.

Ramirez warned against editorial content that looks like it’s coming from an unbiased source. Advertising that misleads customers is deceptive, she said.

The FTC has the authority to bring action against deceptive practices. “Properly designed disclosures can mitigate this possibility,” she said.

Privacy groups react to NSA: Privacy advocacy groups are outraged by the latest leak from Edward Snowden revealing that the National Security Agency collects location data on hundreds of millions of cellphones around the world.

The program does not target Americans, but does collect some data on Americans "incidentally," according to the report from The Washington Post

Privacy groups argued that location data reveals particularly sensitive information about a person. 

"The paths that we travel every day can reveal an extraordinary amount about our political, professional, and intimate relationships," Catherine Crump, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said.

"The dragnet surveillance of hundreds of millions of cell phones flouts our international obligation to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans alike."

Greg Nojeim with the Center for Democracy and Technology said location data can reveal "with whom you associate, where you live, the places you visit, and your movements throughout the day." 

"It can also show if you attended a political protest or visited a medical clinic," he said. "Cell phone location tracking has profound implications on privacy and potential chilling effects on the right to association."

The groups urged Congress to pass legislation to rein in the NSA's power and tighten oversight. 

“Congress should wake up from its post-holiday food-coma and get to work passing legislation to reform the program,” Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International said.

Europe OKs Nokia deal: The European Commission approved Microsoft's bid to buy Nokia's services and device unit Wednesday. The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission approved the $7.2 billion deal earlier this week. 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Tech groups and privacy advocates are signing on to work with the Obama administration on privacy concerns related to facial recognition technology.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is working on legislation to crack down on robocall scams.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing next Tuesday afternoon on the upcoming spectrum auction.

The heads of two Senate committees are expressing concern over a supply deal between Chinese telecom giant Huawei and South Korea.

The nation’s libraries are backing legislation that would curb the powers of the NSA. Revelations about NSA surveillance have created a “climate of concern” for libraries, which are seeking to defend the freedom to read and research away from the government’s prying eyes.

 

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