OVERNIGHT TECH: Patent debate shifts to the Senate

THE LEDE: Patent reform advocates are focusing their attention on the Senate now that the House has passed the Innovation Act, authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlate (R-Va.)

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Dec. 17 on the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

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When defending his bill to the House Rules Committee this week, Goodlatte highlighted the similarities between his Innovation Act and the Senate bill, and pointed to a National Review piece he and Lee had written about their shared views on patent reform.

Leahy applauded the House’s vote on the Innovation Act.

“Targeted reforms should address abuses in the system while ensuring that legitimate inventors can continue to succeed and grow our economy,” he said in a statement. 

“I look forward to working through the Committee process in the Senate to achieve this goal.”

The Software and Information Industry Association — which includes Apple and Google — applauded the vote and asked “the Senate to move promptly on this crucial legislation.”

BSA – The Software Alliance, which includes Apple, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle, said it hopes to work with the Senate on the bill’s provision that allows companies to intervene when their customers are accused of patent infringement.

“One area that will require further consideration is the provision to protect innocent customers from frivolous claims,” BSA CEO — and former White House intellectual property enforcement coordinator — Victoria Espinel said in a statement. 

“BSA supports that goal, but we believe the language should be improved to ensure it works as intended.”

Some patent reform critics hope the Senate will take the process more slowly than the House did.

“We hope the Senate recognizes the need for a deliberate and measured approach as they consider the Patent Transparency and Improvement Act,” Russ Merbeth, chief policy counsel of Intellectual Ventures, said in a statement.

Walden to scrutinize FCC's Internet power: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Communications and Technology subcommittee, plans to examine the Federal Communications Commission's authority over broadband Internet service as part of his re-write of the Communications Act.

"How net neutrality, quote-unquote, is considered will be part of that update," Walden told reporters on a conference call Thursday. But he said it's premature to get into details before a federal court issues its ruling in the lawsuit over the FCC's net neutrality regulations.

"What we want to do is to keep the Internet free from over-management by the government, and that's been our goal all along," he said.

FCC defends cellphones on planes: The FCC on Thursday continued its defense of its plan to allow cellphone use on airplanes, despite blowback from travelers concerned about being subjected to fellow passengers' obnoxious phone calls.

In a blog post, Julius Knapp, chief of the Office of Engineering, and Roger Sherman, acting chief of the Wireless Bureau, argued that the FCC's job is to evaluate interference problems.

"As frequent flyers ourselves, we understand and empathize with these concerns, but it is important to keep in mind that it is not within the FCC’s jurisdiction to set rules governing concerns about passenger behavior aboard aircraft," they wrote. "That role is properly left to the FAA and the airlines after consultation with their customers."

The five FCC commissioners will likely get an earful from lawmakers about the plan at a House hearing next Thursday morning before the commission votes on the issue later in the afternoon.

Markey takes on loan sites: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission Thursday, calling for an investigation of sites that claim to offer payday loans but then transfer consumer personal information to other lenders. Markey expressed concern that the sites are mishandling personal information.  

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

The maker of a popular flashlight app agreed to a settlement with the FTC over charges that it shared its users' location information with advertisers.

The House passed legislation aimed at discouraging frivolous patent lawsuits, which supporters of the bill say are draining money and time from companies that might otherwise be used to create jobs.

HealthCare.gov should be shut down because it's still putting consumers' personal information at risk, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said.

Microsoft has announced new steps to protect its users from government surveillance, including by the National Security Agency.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) announced that she introduced a bill aimed at ensuring that rural states get their fair share of federal communications services, such as broadband.

 

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