OVERNIGHT TECH: House, Senate on same page over ‘patent trolls’

THE LEDE: The House and the Senate are working off the same "base bill" on patent reform, Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaDuncan Hunter to plead guilty to campaign finance violations Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries MORE (R-Calif.) said following the introduction of the Innovation Act on Thursday.

Issa said House members have had talks with the Senate and are at the same starting place: "What is important and what came from those discussions is their base bill is our base bill," Issa told The Hill. "So we are really starting with cosponsors and supporters, bipartisan, bicameral on the exact same starting place."

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The Senate is expected to wait for the House to act before it gets moving on reform, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said last week.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) reintroduced his bill aimed at reining in "patent trolls" on Thursday along with 19 cosponsors, including Issa, the subcommittee chairman on Intellectual property. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has assigned it bill number H.R. 9, a signal that it is a priority, and the full committee will hold a hearing on it next week. Issa said his subcommittee would hold "complementary" hearings on the subject every second week.

Issa also said his panel would explore one provision that was left out of the bill: An expansion of the so-called covered business method review. That would allow companies being sued for infringement to have the Patent Office review whether the patent in question is actually legitimate. The review currently only applies to some financial service related patents and has a sunset date. Proponents see it as faster and less costly than litigation. But it was scrapped from the bill last Congress because of concerns from software companies. Goodlatte signaled it is unlikely the provision would be put back in but that he does not "declare anything dead."

"You can expand it, you can curtail it or you can extend it," Issa said about his subpanel's review. "And we are going to [ask]: Is it working? Is it providing better patent quality -- narrowing the amount that are out there? If that is the case, then we think extending it makes sense. Expanding it will certainly be looked at."

New U.S. chief information officer: The White House on Thursday announced a new U.S. chief information officer. Tony Scott will take the position, as well as the role of administrator of the Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology, inside the Office of Management and Budget. Scott has held similar roles at Microsoft, Disney and the General Motors Corporation in the past. He is taking over for Steven VanRoekel, who left the administration last year to help with the Ebola crisis. Lisa Schlosser filled in after VanRoekel departed.

Obama's influence at FCC: Aides to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler are downplaying President Obama's influence on his decision to reclassify broadband Internet under strict regulations governing traditional telephones. Gigi Sohn, a special counsel for Wheeler, said much of Wheeler's "evolution" on the issue came from consumer advocacy. Republicans have recently accused Wheeler of bowing to Obama's "bully tactics" of an independent agency.

"By early fall the chairman had already decided that Title II at a minimum had to be part of any solution, long before the president said anything related to Title II was on his plate. A lot of that came from consumer input," Sohn told TechCrunch in an interview.

Cleaver warns Google about 'digital redlining': Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) on Thursday sent Google a letter asking that it do more to close the "digital divide" in Kansas City, one of the cities where the company has rolled out Google Fiber. About a quarter of the city still does not have Internet access at home, Cleaver pointed out to CEO Larry Page, and wealthier neighborhoods are more likely to take advantage of the company's high-speed Internet offerings. Those early stats "suggest the beginning of potential 'digital redlining' in our city," he warned.

Cleaver called on Google to meet with city leaders to address the issue and relax its terms of service to allow people to share their connections via WiFi. "I hope Kansas City can become the national model for connecting the unconnected and demanding the best for our constituents and communities," he wrote.

Hatch gives thumbs up to Comcast-TWC merger: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told top officials at the FCC and Justice Department that he sees "no reasonable basis in existing law" not to approve Comcast's proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable. He also warned the agencies that applying any net neutrality provisions to the merger would be "highly inappropriate."

Congress.gov to send email alerts: The Library of Congress is trying its hand at breaking news. The updated Congress.gov website will now allow users to sign up for email alerts about specific bills, a lawmaker's legislative activity and new versions of the congressional record. In recent years the Library of Congress updated its official websites for legislative information. In 2014, it switched over to Congress.gov from its previous home of Thomas.gov.

New phase for Future of Music Coalition: The Future of Music Coalition of musicians and composers has a new CEO in Casey Rae -- a staffer since 2007 -- and a new board, it announced on Thursday. Among the new members of the board are rocker Thao Nguyen and Merrill Garbus, a member of the critically acclaimed tUnE-yArDs group.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

A bipartisan group of 20 lawmakers on Thursday reintroduced legislation aimed at reining in "patent trolls."

The "breathtaking" and "mind-bending" theft of personal information of up to 80 million customers of the nation's second-largest health insurance provider is reason for new focus on protecting Americans' data, senators said.

A bill meant to expand public disclosure of government documents made its first step toward passage in the new Congress.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler says he looks forward to working with Congress on net neutrality.  

Dish Network is in the crosshairs for receiving "corporate welfare" during a recent auction of the nation's airwaves.

 

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