OVERNIGHT TECH: Lawmakers unsure how to tackle 'patent trolls'

Mark Chandler, the general counsel for Cisco Systems, said his company spends $50 million on outside attorneys handling about 50 patent troll lawsuits every year. Janet Dhillon, the general counsel of J.C. Penney, said her chain has faced dozens of lawsuits for using basic technologies like drop-down menus on their website and activating gift cards.

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Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) have introduced the Shield Act to force plaintiffs to pay for the defendant's attorney fees and other legal costs if their patent lawsuit fails in court. Plaintiffs would be exempt if they invented the patent themselves or could show that they had made a substantial investment in trying to bring the patent to market.

But Graham Gerst, partner with the Global IP Law Group, argued that non-practicing firms help to keep patent values high and that targeting them with legislation could stifle economic growth.

Lawmakers grappled with trying to define a "patent troll" in a way that would only punish bad actors.

Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) worried that without a proper definition, lawmakers will "impact adversely a bunch of people we should not be impacting." Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) warned that legislation targeting patent trolls could open the door to deny plaintiffs "their right to go to court in other tort situations."

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the committee's ranking member, said he suspects the tools to address patent trolls already exist.

"Why can't we fix this problem by improving patent quality and notice of patent ownership?" Conyers asked.

Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), the chairman of the subcommittee, suggested using antitrust law to go after patent trolls as an alternative solution.

Chaffetz defended his Shield Act, arguing it addresses a "massive problem," but said he is open to "further perfection or input."

Broadcasters hire former Hill aide: The National Association of Broadcasters announced on Thursday that it has hired Shawn Donilon as a director of government relations. Donilon served as an aide to former Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and advised him on spectrum auction legislation and other technology policy issues. Before that, Donilon was a consultant on major media transactions. He has an economics degree from Duke University and a J.D. from the University of Southern California Law School. 

Cyber-focused bills clear House Science Committee: The House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed two bills on Thursday that are aimed at coordinating and boosting research and development efforts on cybersecurity. The committee passed the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act by Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and the Advancing America's Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.). by voice vote. 


ON TAP

The Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus will hold a panel in the Rayburn House Office Building on Friday afternoon to discuss what Congress's next move will be after President Obama issued his cybersecurity executive order. Panelists include House Judiciary Committee senior counsel Sam Ramer, CenturyLink Director of National Security Kathryn Condello, Center for Democracy and Technology senior Counsel Greg Nojeim, Oracle Senior Director of Tech Policy Franck Journoud and Michael Hermann, national security legislative assistant for Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.).


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Obama meets again with tech bigwigs: President Obama met with a number of top technology CEOs and senior executives on Thursday to discuss policy issues that are key for the industry this year.

Obama and senior White House officials sat down with NASDAQ executive vice president Bruce Aust, AOL co-founder Steve Case, who now runs the investment firm Revolution, as well as Cisco CEO John Chambers, venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Marvell Technologies co-founder Weili Dai, TechNet CEO Rey Ramsey and Oracle COO Safra Catz.

Reuters editor charged with helping hackers: The Justice Department on Thursday accused Matthew Keys, deputy social media editor for Reuters, of conspiring to help members of the hacker group "Anonymous" deface the Los Angeles Times website in 2010.

Keys worked for Sacramento-based TV station KTXL FOX 40, which is owned by the Tribune Co., as a web producer until October 2010.

DHS cybersecurity chief to head to The Chertoff Group: Mark Weatherford, deputy under secretary for cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is leaving the department after a little over a year to serve as a principal at The Chertoff Group.

Weatherford joined the DHS in November 2011 after serving as the chief security officer at North American Electric Reliability Corp. In his role at the DHS, Weatherford oversaw the department's cybersecurity operations, including its partnership with the private sector and security of the federal government's computer network.

Obama presses new Chinese leader on North Korea, hacking: President Obama on Thursday urged China's new president to try to restrain its troublesome ally North Korea during a call congratulating Xi Jinping following Xi's formal election as president.

Obama “highlighted” the threat North Korea's nuclear and missile programs pose to the United States and the region and “stressed the need for close coordination with China to ensure North Korea meets its denuclearization commitment,” according to a readout of the call. The president also stressed the “importance of addressing cybersecurity threats, which represent a shared challenge.” 

Zuckerberg, other tech executives press for high-skilled immigration reform: More than 100 chief executives of major tech companies and trade associations — including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer — urged President Obama and Congress on Thursday to reform the existing immigration rules for highly-skilled workers. 


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