OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate panel to speed through patent bill

LEDE: The Senate Judiciary Committee is making quick work of its new bill to fight patent trolls. 

The Committee will hear testimony on the bill Thursday, and a mark up is likely to come before the Senate recesses for Memorial Day. The committee could put the bill on the committee's agenda next week and mark it up on May 21. But nothing has yet been scheduled, according to the committee.  

The 9:30 a.m. hearing Thursday will host companies generally supportive of the bill, including Diane Lettelleir of JCPenny, Mark Chandler of Cisco Systems, Julie Samuels of Engine, Kevin Rhodes of 3M Properties and chairman of 21C Coalition, and Henry Hadad of Bristol-Myers Squibb. 

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Both Rhodes and Hadad represent companies from the 21C Coalition, which last week pointed to "welcome compromises" on discovery and pleading requirement provisions in the bill. The group had raised concerns that those provisions in a House bill were overly broad. But the group said "any meaningful reform" should also include changes to the U.S Patent Office's own reviews, which were set up to offer a quick alternative to challenging a patent in court.

There is still lingering concern from some that the bill goes too far and would make it harder for people to bring legitimate patent infringement claims. Those concerns will likely be echoed by a few lawmakers who are still critical of broad reform. Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats introduce bill to rein in Trump's power under Insurrection Act Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (D-Vt.), a sponsor of the bill, has said the quicker the Senate moves, the better its odds. 

NYT ENDORSES SENATE BILL: The New York Times editorial board endorsed the Senate's patent reform bill on Wednesday. Reform stalled in the upper chamber last year under Democratic control, but the newspaper said "lawmakers have learned from that failure" and incorporated those concerns. In particular, the editorial board applauded the Senate's new language on fee shifting, which it called "a clear improvement over a bill approved by the House" last Congress. 

MOZILLA WORRIED ABOUT ZERO-RATING: Taking a subtle shot at Facebook's Internet.org, Mozilla published a blog Tuesday night asserting the "impact of zero-rating may result in the same harms as throttling, blocking, or paid prioritization." Facebook's attempts to bring basic Internet service to the unconnected has been criticized in India for its use of zero-rating, which critics say violates net neutrality principles. Mozilla said the business model could "limit rather than expand a user's access to the Internet and ultimately chill competition and innovation." The group said there are still many unknowns about the business model and a government prohibition may also be the wrong answer. 

FTC GETS PRIVACY OFFICER: The Federal Trade Commission named Katherine Race Brin as Chief Privacy Officer of the agency. She had been in an acting role since December after Peter Miller left the position. Brin has been at the FTC since 2007, where she has held roles in the Consumer Protection Bureau and the Privacy and Identity Protection Division. The FTC's privacy officer also leads the Privacy Steering Committee at the agency and the Breach Notification Response Team. 

LA TIMES BACKS USA FREEDOM: The Los Angeles Times is offering support for the USA Freedom Act, though not without reservations. "We had hoped that Congress would take a fresh look at whether this program is necessary at all," it said in an editorial on Wednesday. "But if Congress is determined to continue the program, it must establish safeguards. The bill does this, though there is room for improvement." 

They're not the only ones: Access, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Mozilla and the Reform Government Surveillance were part of more than two dozen groups on a Wednesday letter pushing lawmakers to back the legislation as "one step towards reform" of U.S. spying powers. "The USA Freedom Act is not as comprehensive or protective of civil liberties as we would prefer, but we believe the bill would significantly improve the status quo," they wrote. 

Meanwhile, the call for the expiring provisions to sunset is also mounting. An opposing letter from Credo Action, Demand Progress and the Sunlight Foundation, among others called the "sacrifices" made by the USA Freedom Act "unacceptable." "A vote against it, and against any law that reauthorizes Section 215, is the best step toward ending mass surveillance of Americans," they wrote. 

STAFF CHANGES AT BSA: Jen Beltz is taking over as the vice president of global communications at BSA | The Software Alliance, the trade group announced on Wednesday. Beltz previously ran the campaign of Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Evan Falchuk (I) and also ran global communications for Best Doctors, Inc., a global health firm. 

BOARD CHANGES AT USTELECOM: GVTC vice president Robert Hunt is the new chairman of USTelecom's board of directors, replacing retiring CenturyLink executive Steve Davis.

ON TAP: 

At 9:30 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on its new patent reform bill. 

At 9:30 a.m., the Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing titled "Jihad 2.0: Social media in the next evolution of terrorist recruitment.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden: Probably '10 to 15 percent' of Americans 'are just not very good people' Mattis's Trump broadside underscores military tensions Mark Cuban says he's decided not to run for president MORE's use of a personal email account run through a private server was "not acceptable" and happened without officials' knowledge, a top State Department record-keeper said on Wednesday. 

The cable industry is more about broadband Internet than television, the nation's top communications regulator told companies on Wednesday. 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul clashes with Booker, Harris over anti-lynching bill Rand Paul holding up quick passage of anti-lynching bill Democratic senator to offer amendment halting 'military weaponry' given to police MORE (R-Ky.) paid more than $100,000 to buy a domain name shortly before launching his presidential campaign, according to campaign finance records.

A coalition of advocacy groups from all sides of the political spectrum has joined forces to warn against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: US Park Police say 'tear gas' statements were 'mistake' | Trump to reopen area off New England coast for fishing | Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump juggles three crises ahead of November election Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues in battle to save seats MORE's (R-Ky.) plan to renew expiring portions of the Patriot Act without changes.

Senators on Wednesday pressed Defense Secretary Ash Carter for more details about the value of the Pentagon's nascent Silicon Valley outreach efforts.

 

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