Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: New patent bill gets cold shoulder

THE LEDE: Advocates for large-scale patent reform are dismissing a pared down proposal introduced by a trio of Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. 

Sen. Chris Coons’s (D-Del.) bill introduced Tuesday runs up against broader reforms included in a bill sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), which has 20 bipartisan House cosponsors and the support of industries including software, technology and retail. Leaders on the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on similar legislation. 

{mosads}Advocates for broader reform described Coons’s bill as a “fig leaf bill for senators to sign on to so they can pretend they are supporting patent reform,” according to the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA). A press person for United for Patent Reform — which represents technology and retail companies — called it a “stalking horse” for patent trolls. 

CEA specifically cited the bill’s silence on fee shifting, a reform that would force the losing party in patent litigation to pay the winner’s legal fees if the suit was found to be frivolous. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on Tuesday called a fee shifting provision “critical.” Without addressing Coons’s bill directly, Hatch expressed confidence that another proposal with fee shifting included could pass the Senate, saying “there is no reason to have partisanship on this issue.”

Coons’s more modest reforms to patent demand letters and other changes at the U.S Patent and Trademark Office won support from the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries as well as universities, which remain concerned that broad reform could discourage legitimate patent litigation. The Innovation Alliance and the National Venture Capital Association also signed on. 

LAWMAKERS WANT MORE SPECTRUM: A group of seven bipartisan lawmakers from both chambers of Congress are asking the Federal Communications Commission to explore freeing up another band of airwaves in order to expand Wi-Fi capabilities and affordable high-speed Internet access. The group sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to “explore the potential sharing opportunities within the 10 GHz band.” The letter was signed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Bob Latta (R-Ohio). 

FREE INTERNET BILL HEADING TO HOUSE: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is getting ready to introduce her Global Free Internet Act tomorrow, her office said. The bill, which was also introduced in 2013 but failed to move forward, would create a task force to push for policies that tear down barriers to Web-related products and services in the U.S., in international organizations and abroad. The legislation is expected to address both commerce over the Internet and free expression internationally.  

ESTRELLA HITS THE HILL IN COMCAST FIGHT: Lenard Liberman, the CEO of Spanish-language Estrella TV, is in Washington this week to urge officials against approving the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger and using his story as a precautionary tale. Estrella has been involved in a dispute with Comcast over carriage and has been off the air in three major media markets since mid-February. The company is a “poster child for how they’re going to act and how they do act,” Liberman told The Hill in an interview on Capitol Hill. If the merger is approved, Estrella will be forced out of Los Angeles, too, he warned, which “puts me out of business.”

Comcast, for its part, has repeatedly claimed that it has been negotiating in good faith” for months, but accused Estrella of playing hardball and trying to use the merger as a pretense to advance its own business interests. The cable giant offers a number of Spanish- and English-language programming targeting Latino audiences, it notes. Liberman and his colleagues have been in Washington to meet with more than a dozen lawmakers’ offices as well as with officials at the Justice Department and FCC. So far, everyone has been “extremely receptive,” he said. 

DRONE PRIVACY BILL MAKES LANDING: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced legislation on Tuesday to go above and beyond the Obama administration’s new privacy plan for drones. While the White House last month unveiled a proposal that largely left privacy safeguards up to agencies and industry groups, the lawmakers’ Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act would set requirements that limit how the flying machines will gather and store data that they happen to pick up. 

“We are entering a Brave New World and just as we have rules of the road for manned vehicles, we now need rules of the sky for unmanned ones,” Markey said in a statement. “We can have the economic benefits of drones while ensuring the privacy of Americans is protected.” The bill was endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

WHITE HOUSE PRESSED ON CONSUMER PRIVACY BILL: Fourteen privacy groups joined forces in a letter to the White House on Tuesday urging President Obama to strengthen his legislative plan for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The draft bill, which the White House released last week, “falls short” of its promise, wrote the Center for Democracy and Technology, Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge and others.  They called for “substantial changes” so that people have more control over their data, to strengthen powers at the Federal Trade Commission and to ensure that strong state laws aren’t being undercut. 

Additionally, most of the groups said they were left out of the process ahead of the legislation’s release. “Our substantive concerns were compounded by the way in which this bill was developed,” they claimed.

NETFLIX’S COMMITMENT TO NET NEUTRALITY QUESTIONED: Netflix is taking heat after an Australia-based Internet service provider, iiNet, revealed it was partnering with the company to offer Netflix streaming, which will not count against customers’ data caps — a deal known as zero rating. Some U.S. advocates for net neutrality wanted zero rating to be barred under the Federal Communications Commission’s new Internet rules. Netflix, a huge advocate for the rules, has also lamented the practice when mobile phone companies engaged in it. The FCC has been silent on how it will handle zero rating in the United States. 

TECHNET GAINS EIGHT: TechNet gained eight new member companies on Tuesday, the trade group said, bringing its total membership up to 67 firms. Dell is the biggest among the new names hopping onboard, along with Amyris, ecoATM, Fortinet, NI, Ocean Tomo, OpenDNS and SunGard, who all hail from states from Texas to Pennsylvania. In a statement, CEO Linda Moore said that the “additional geographic diversity will bolster TechNet’s exclusive 50-state advocacy program, and brings valuable new perspective and leadership to the public policy debates impacting innovation in Washington and across the country.”

SENATE PLANS FIRSTNET HEARING: The Senate Commerce Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the FCC’s FirstNet program for first responders on the morning of March 11, Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) announced on Tuesday. FirstNet Chairwoman Susan Swenson is slated to testify, as is Commerce Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews, the Commerce Department’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office’s physical infrastructure director Mark Goldstein.   


Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) will speak at an Inventing America conference on the patent system, starting at 9 a.m. at the Newseum. 

The American Cable Association’s annual summit kicks off at 9 a.m. Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are scheduled to speak as is FCC aide Gigi Sohn.

At 10:30 a.m., the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on the FCC’s 2016 budget.

The House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing on cyber operations with National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers and other officials at 3:30.


Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email account to conduct official business as secretary of State caused seems to have stayed within the law, experts say.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never sent any classified emails through her personal email account during the multiple years that she was in office, the State Department said on Tuesday.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler disputed the idea that new net neutrality regulations could spur foreign governments to clamp down on their own online networks. 

trio of Senate Democrats are unveiling new legislation that they say will protect inventors who come up with smart new ideas.

Government leaker Edward Snowden still wants to come home.


Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com  and Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @jmhattem

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