OVERNIGHT TECH: Tech cheers as IP nominees get votes

THE LEDE: After two years without a director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Senate unanimously confirmed former Google executive Michelle Lee to the post on Monday evening, shortly after confirming Daniel Marti to be the White House's next "IP czar."

The votes got a warm welcome from the tech industry, which was happy that the glaring vacancies were finally getting filled.

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"After more than two years without a permanent director, PTO now has a leader with the background and experience to aggressively fight for America's intellectual property and patent holders," TechNet CEO Linda Moore said in a statement shortly after the vote. "TechNet looks forward to continuing to work with Director Lee and members of Congress to constructively evaluate and reform America's patent system and advance American-led innovation and entrepreneurship around the world."

Lee, had been the acting head and No. 2 at the PTO since last January. She was confirmed by a swift voice vote on Monday soon after the Senate unanimously approved Marti's nomination as the intellectual property enforcement coordinator (IPEC).

Dana Rao, the vice president of intellectual property at Adobe, called Lee "a friend to patent holders everywhere" and pointed to her focus on ensuring the highest quality patents.

The Internet Association -- which represents groups like Google, Twitter, Yahoo and others -- used Lee's nomination as a chance to reiterate support for patent reform. "We look forward to continuing to work with Ms. Lee and the USPTO on developing solutions necessary to address the challenges currently facing our patent system," the group's president Michael Beckerman said in a statement.

During her confirmation hearing earlier this year, Lee said she was open to patent reform legislation to fight "patent trolls," but ran into some trouble from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) for not being specific enough in her responses to Congress.

Victoria Espinel, the current head of BSA | The Software Alliance and the nation's first "IP czar," offered her congrats to Marti. "The IPEC's office plays a critical role in fostering and continuing American innovation by ensuring that the U.S. government is taking the right steps to protect intellectual property," she said. "My experience serving as IPEC was incredibly rewarding and I wish the same for Daniel Marti as he begins this new role."

PANEL TO EXPLORE MUSIC LICENSING FIGHT: A group of broadcasters, technology companies and manufacturers are pressing senators to resist lifting restrictions on performing rights organizations that are in charge of licensing music to radio stations and other streaming companies such as Pandora. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee is holding a Tuesday hearing on the issue.

The Justice Department long ago imposed consent decrees on some performing rights organizations (PROs) to break up anticompetitive behavior. While PROs argue the consent decrees are outdated because technology has changed how music is distributed, broadcasters and others told lawmakers that they remain "necessary for the fair and efficient licensing of musical works and should not be weakened." The letter was signed by the Consumer Electronics Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Digital Media Association, the Internet Association and the National Association of Broadcasters.  

CYBER BILL FIRST FOR SENATE INTEL, NSA TO FOLLOW: Cybersecurity legislation is No. 1 on the agenda for the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein (Calif.). "Our first effort is the cyber bill, and that's occupied most of our time," she told The Hill on Monday. A markup is expected to be scheduled between this week and some time in late April, sources told The Hill.

Legislation to reauthorize expiring provisions of the Patriot Act that authorize controversial National Security Agency operations is likely to come after that.

GROWTH FOR GRAMMY PUSH: The Grammy's lobbying push is continuing to grow with a new Managers' Think Tank featuring 30 talent agents to help weigh in on the effort. The group includes representatives of major stars like Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, among many others. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) -- whose committee is locked in a months-long review of the nation's copyright laws -- said that the Grammy group "will be an important voice in this discussion." "I look forward to hearing the viewpoints of music creators as we consider changes to the law to ensure we 'promote the progress of science and useful arts,' as the framers intended," he added.

$10,000 WATCH: During an Apple event Monday, the company unveiled a lighter, thinner laptop and revealed new details about the Apple Watch. Standard Apple Watches will range from $349 to $1,099, but a limited edition watch made of 18 karat solid gold will sell for $10,000. Apple also announced an exclusive partnership with HBO -- called HBO Now -- that will allow apple users to stream the network for $14.99 per month without a cable subscription.   

APPLE'S MEDICAL RESEARCH APPS: Apple is making it easier to conduct medical research using a new suit of applications announced Monday. Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled "Research Kit" that will allow customers to sign up for studies and let researchers easily create medical apps. The company partnered with a number of universities and research centers on the project. On privacy, Apple said it would not be able to see customers' medical data and users would be allowed to decide what data they share or don't share.

FTC SIGNS PRIVACY PLAN WITH DUTCH: The Federal Trade Commission and the Dutch Data Protection Authority have inked a memorandum of understanding to better share information and cooperate on enforcement of privacy issues. The deal is similar to arrangements the FTC has with agencies in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the commission said, and should lead to better privacy protections on both sides of the Atlantic.

CHEERS FOR WHITE HOUSE HIRING: President Obama's plan to turn more Americans into coders and IT professionals is getting cheers from the tech industry. The head of the Information Technology Industry Council said that its problems with diversity "should be seen as a canary in the coal mine that educating more Americans for these open IT jobs is also an important part of the equation." "We hope the president's initiative will help breathe new life into the important conversation on how boosting 21st century education is really an investment in a stronger economy for all of us," Dean Garfield added.

GRASSLEY CALLS IMMIGRATION HEARING TO 'PROTECT' U.S. WORKERS: Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) set a hearing for next week to explore "immigration reforms to protect skilled American workers." The hearing follows a floor speech Grassley gave late last month citing abuse of the high-skilled H-1B visa program, which is widely used in the technology industry. During his floor speech, Grassley said Congress needs to plug holes in the program and vowed to prevent movement on a bipartisan bill meant to expand the program.

 

ON TAP:

At 10 a.m., the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust will hold a hearing titled: "How Much For a Song?: The Antitrust Decrees that Govern the Market for Music."

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden is at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute to talk intelligence sharing at 12:15.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will give the keynote speech at the Center for Democracy and Technology's Tech Prom in the evening.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

A group of eight House Democrats is calling for drivers of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to be fingerprinted before they can pick up passengers.

Democrats are far less interested in the email scandal plaguing Hillary Clinton than their Republican counterparts, according to a new poll.

President Obama on Monday unveiled a $100 million grant program as part of a new initiative that he said was critical to ensuring the U.S. remains a global economic powerhouse.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is defending his decision not to use email, arguing it won't hurt his ability to lead the country should he run for the White House in 2016.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), a likely 2016 presidential candidate, is sticking to the party line on net neutrality.

 

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