OVERNIGHT TECH: Small-bore patent moves plod ahead

THE LEDE: House lawmakers unveiled a new bill to combat patent “trolls” on Thursday, a week after broader legislation seemed to have died in the Senate.

Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) introduced a measure to speed up the legal process that companies use to make profits off of patents they own. Specifically, the bill would target patent cases that go through the U.S. International Trade Commission, which have been on the rise in recent years.

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The commission aims to block foreign products that infringe on U.S. patents, but the legal foundation has not been updated since 1988. The lawmakers claim that trolls are using a loophole to take advantage of the system.

“The law we’re fixing with this legislation was created to protect American businesses,” Cárdenas said in a statement. “Instead, thanks to these patent trolls, American businesses are being crippled by the bureaucracy it takes to fight these claims.”

Farenthold called abusive patent suits "a drag on our economy” that stifles innovation. “Everyone from inventors, start-ups, and mid- and large-sized businesses face this threat,” he added. “Our legislation curbs the problem by targeting abusive patent trolls and discouraging frivolous patent lawsuits.”

The Trade Protection Not Troll Protection Act would require companies that own patent licenses but don’t make their own products to have some type of vested interest in the intellectual property, such as developing it. It would also allow a “public interest determination” to be made at the beginning of a review, rather than at the end.

The bill was backed by a coalition of major tech companies like Apple, Google and Cisco, which have joined forces as the ITC Working Group. Executive director Matt Tanielian said that the bill would make it “more difficult for sham companies to simply buy patents and then run to the [International Trade Commission] with a complaint.”

After the Senate Judiciary Committee seemed to have deadlocked on a comprehensive patent reform bill last week, attention has turned to a series of more narrow, targeted bills to take on specific issues that patent reformers want to fix.

House Commerce GOP press FCC on wireless broadband: Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify its plans for streamlining the process for upgrading wireless broadband facilities. In a letter on Thursday, Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the head of the Communications subcommittee, said that the commission is a year late in delivering guidance about how it will apply portions of the 2012 Spectrum Act.

“Time is of the essence,” they wrote. To make sure the law achieves its goal, “the Commission should adopt rules that provide consistency for applicants and reviewing authorities alike.”

Wireless industry executives accused the FCC of dragging its feet on the guidance. Jonathan Adelstein, the head of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, said in a statement that the industry was “grateful” to Upton and Walden for their push, and added that getting rid of red tape is “crucial” for expanding wireless broadband and creating jobs around the country.

FTC charges text spammer $148K: After facing charges from the Federal Trade Commission, California man Phil Flora has been ordered to pay $148,309 for his involvement in a text message spam scam that involved sending more than 29 million text messages advertising “free” gift cards to major retailers. The charges, brought in 2013, follow similar charges the agency brought against Flora for spam texting in 2011. Under the order announced Thursday, Flora must pay $148,309 and is banned from sending more spam text messages.

“When scammers ignore court orders, they do so at their own peril,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. “As this case shows, no matter how much scammers may try to hide their involvement, we will work to uncover their role and ensure they give up their ill-gotten gains.”

Google reports on Internet providers’ quality: On Thursday, Google published its first report on U.S. Internet providers' quality when it comes to delivering YouTube videos.

“If you’re regularly seeing videos buffer, this report can give you a better idea of why, as well as tips to make YouTube play better. You can also see the video quality other ISPs in your area are delivering,” YouTube Product Manager Jay Akkad wrote in a company blog post introducing Google’s Video Quality Report.

Senate GOP candidate calls for free Internet:  The Republican running to replace Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) took on the issue of net neutrality in a debate on Wednesday, but did not offer a clear position on the contentious subject. In response to a question about the concept, which declares that all content online should be treated equally, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said she thought that “the Internet should be free.”

“I think that's a very important part of this, and especially in emerging countries and growing communities it's a way to actually communicate and I think it's very important to have that available for everyone,” she said, according to the MIRS news service. "I think it's important that the costs don't go up so people can have access to the Internet.”

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Edward Snowden didn’t win over Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in his televised interview on Wednesday night.

In an email sent to top lawyers at the National Security Agency a month before leaving the agency, former contractor Edward Snowden questioned the agency’s legal rationale but did not formally denounce its operations.

A new House Republican bill would prevent the FCC from going forward with a proposal for stronger regulations on Internet service providers.

Two groups representing tech industry giants are asking lawmakers to give the administration funding to carry out its controversial plan to relinquish oversight of key technical Internet functions.

The 14 million subscribers of DISH satellite television will soon be able to pay their monthly bills in bitcoins.

 

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