OVERNIGHT TECH: Patent pick heads to Senate panel

The Lede: The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to take up the nomination of President Obama's pick to lead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday morning.

Michelle Lee, who was nominated in October, will use her opening remarks to call for a continued focus on reducing the patent backlog and international protections for the intellectual property of U.S. companies.


She is also expected to highlight her two decades of work in patent law and technology inside and out of the government, as well as her upbringing in Silicon Valley and her computer programming background. She has engineering and computer science degrees from M.I.T., as well as a law degree from Stanford.

Lee, a former lawyer and patent head for Google, currently serves as deputy director for the patent office. She currently takes on the responsibilities of director, however, since the agency has not had a confirmed leader since January 2013.

Lee will also touch on the need to motivate and manage her workforce, an issue that has become increasingly important as congressional investigators have pinpointed the office’s telework program for scrutiny after allegations of abuse.

In addition to Lee's confirmation, the committee will also consider Daniel Henry Marti to be the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the president, a post established in 2008 to tackle enforcement inefficiencies across agencies.  

Congress is slated to adjourn for the year as early as this week, leaving little room for the full Senate to take up the nominations. A spokesperson for the committee would not give a timeline for full Senate confirmation.

Disclosure flaws at FirstNet: The government organization building a nationwide broadband network to help first responders communicate has inadequate financial disclosure policies for its board members, according to the Commerce Department Inspector General. FirstNet was established in 2012 to set up a nationwide wireless network to address first-responder communication failures after 9/11. The board is made up of more than a dozen federal, state and local officials and members of the wireless industry.

The inspector general found the board was unable to provide records for all FirstNet financial disclosures required by law and found at least four board members filed late or incomplete disclosures. The report released Tuesday also found there was inadequate competition in some of its contract bids. In a response, officials from FirstNet acknowledged some mistakes and said they will take steps to address those errors.

"Questions of ethics threaten the legitimacy of FirstNet’s efforts and ultimately undermine its important mission to build a nationwide public safety broadband network," said Rep. Greg Walden (D-Ore.), adding that the Commerce Committee will hold additional hearings next year. 

House Committee leaders call for FOIA passage: Bipartisan leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called on the House to pass reforms to the Freedom of Information Act before it adjourns at the end of the week. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent on Monday after Sen. John RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (D-W.Va.) dropped his hold. The House approved similar legislation sponsored by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in February.

"The FOIA Improvement Act is a bipartisan bill that, after last night’s passage by the Senate, deserves to be taken up by the House and sent to the President," Issa and Oversight ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement.

With just days to go, it remains to be seen whether the bill will move forward in the House. A spokesman for Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Bottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future MORE (R-Ohio) declined to say whether or not the measure is a priority in the few remaining days the chamber will be in session this year.

DOJ releases new APIs: The Justice Department is beefing up its digital offerings by releasing two new programming systems. The department’s new APIs for news and law jobs will give developers ways to build applications and other software tools to search through its press releases, job postings and other announcements, it said. Officials described the APIs as “part of an effort to replace aging technology with a cloud-based, open source platform.”

Workplace satisfaction at FCC, FTC: The Federal Communication Commission ranks ninth out of 25 midsize federal government agencies for best places to work. On a 100-point scale, the agency scored a 67.4, down from 71 the year before. The Federal Trade Commission ranks fourth on the list.

The scores from the Partnership for Public Service are based on a series of workplace satisfaction and other workplace environment questions. Much of the data is taken from the Office of Personnel Management's yearly Federal Employee Viewpoint survey. A midsize agency is defined as one that has between 1,000 and 14,999 permanent employees. 

Microsoft CEO talks with GOP:  Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke Tuesday with Senate Republicans about tech priorities in 2015, at the invitation of Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs Trump awards medal of freedom to former congressman, Olympian Jim Ryun MORE (R-Utah). Hatch is the chairman of a Senate Republican task force on high tech issues and has repeatedly talked about his tech-focused agenda for the new Congress.  

Former FCC staffer heads to USTelecom: Former Federal Communications Commission deputy associate general counsel Diane Griffin Holland is heading to USTelecom, the trade group announced on Tuesday. Holland will take the reins as the vice president of the group’s law and policy team.

Microsoft filed brief in overseas data storage case: Microsoft this week filed its arguments opposing the Justice Department’s attempt to grab data stored on an overseas server. The case in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals could have serious consequences for the way tech companies store their data and have to comply with government demands 


At 9:30, the former national field director of President Obama’s 2012 campaign, Jeremy Bird, is talking about political organizing in the digital era in an Open Technology Institute event.

At 10 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Michelle Lee, who is nominated for director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It will also consider the nomination of Daniel Henry Marti, the president's nominee for the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

The House Transportation Committee is holding a hearing on drone policy at 10 a.m.

At the same time, the Brookings Institution is hosting a discussion on mobile technology.

Former Hewlett-Packard chief and potential 2016 candidate Carly Fiorina will talk about "the imperative for strong intellectual property rights" in a panel discussion on Capitol Hill.

Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill will give opening remarks at an event on patent “trolls” at the National Press Club at 1:30.

Also at the Press Club officials from the Commerce Department, IBM and BSA | The Software Alliance will talk about how companies use data at 2 p.m.


The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled that an Amazon contractor does not have to pay warehouse workers for their time spent standing in security screening lines following their shifts.

The head of the FCC is in a tight spot between pressure from President Obama and the vehement objections of industry groups and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The city of Portland, Ore., sued Uber and issued a cease and desist order calling for the ride sharing company to stop operation in the city.  

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a massive report seven years in the making that asserts the CIA misled the public, Congress and the White House while carrying out “enhanced interrogation” techniques that, in some cases, amounted to torture.

Take a look at some of the highlights from the CIA report.


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