Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Senators still tweaking patent bill

LEDE: The Senate patent bill isn’t in final form even after making it out of the Judiciary Committee on Thursday. 

Lawmakers said there are still a few provisions to hammer out, specifically dealing with additions to satisfy the pharmaceutical and life science industries. A managers’ amendment approved Thursday contains a host of changes the industries pushed. They say the changes are aimed at providing more balance for patent holders at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (PTO) post grant and inter partes reviews — forums to challenge the validity of patents. 

{mosads}One section of the bill that deals with patent holders’ ability to amend their claims at those PTO reviews currently contains placeholder language. Another potential addition that is being worked out would exclude certain approved drug patents from being challenged.

The majority of the bill and its original intent is aimed at cracking down on so-called patent trolls, who abuse the legal system in an attempt to win patent infringement settlements. The technology industry, one of the strongest supporters of patent reform, has focused on those litigation reforms. Tech trade groups have said the additions made to placate the pharmaceutical and other industries will weaken the PTO process, which was set up to kill vague or over-broad patents that can be exploited by trolls. They are holding out to tweak to the language. But a large coalition of tech companies and retail firms has said those concerns are not enough to kill support. 

2016 CANDIDATES SPLIT ON PATENT VOTE: The two GOP presidential candidates who sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee split their votes on a patent reform bill that passed overwhelmingly Thursday. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the only committee member to not show up to the markup, voted for the bill by proxy. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who spoke briefly before ducking out, was one of only four members to vote against it. 

“I think it’s a close call and I may well be open to supporting it ultimately on the floor [if amendments are considered],” he said, adding that he feared the bill skewed too far against individual inventors. 

FACEBOOK FOUNDER’S SPOUSE WON’T RUN AGAIN: Sean Eldridge, the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, told Vanity Fair in a profile published Thursday that he will not run for Congress again after his failed bid in New York’s 19th District last year. Eldridge lost to Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) by nearly 30 points in 2014. “I’m not going to run again,” he told the publication, adding “few things have such a clear ending as a campaign.”

APPROPS BILL CONTAINS ICANN STALL: Tucked into the text of the 2016 House appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice, Science that passed on Wednesday afternoon is a provision that would prevent funds from going towards the U.S. government’s plan to hand over its oversight role of the Internet domain name system. Lawmakers attached a similar provision in a 2015 omnibus bill that the president signed in December. President Obama issued a veto threat against the appropriations bill this week due to a number of concerns.

COPYRIGHT OFFICE DRAFT GETS MIXED REVIEWS: Trade groups like the Copyright Alliance and the Software & Information Industry Association applauded a proposal by a pair of House members that would spin off the Copyright Office into an independent agency, and out of the Library of Congress. Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) introduced the draft proposal on Thursday, arguing the office needs more autonomy to bring it into the modern age. Others like the Internet Association said “wholesale changes” need to be made before moving on to the agency’s independence. 

FACEBOOK LAUNCHES APP FOR EMERGING MARKETS: Facebook launched an Android app today, called Facebook Lite, aimed specifically at emerging markets. Less than 1MB in size, it’s meant to give users the basic features of the social network without sucking down bandwidth. The company says it is rolling the product out in Asia starting today and will later bring it to parts of Africa, Latin America and Europe.

UNIVISION TAPS TECH EXPERT FOR LOBBYING POST: Univision has hired Jessica R. Herrera-Flanigan, a lobbyist at Monument Policy Group with experience in Internet and privacy policy, as its new executive vice president for government relations and public policy. It’s a new position, and she will run the government relations show for the network from Washington. She has significant tech bona fides: she served in the computer crime section of the Justice Department and, more recently, worked with Reform Government Surveillance.


Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) became the first lawmaker to propose a significant slate of policies aimed at addressing the questions posed by the rapid growth of the so-called on-demand economy — defined by companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

A Facebook official tasked with user privacy says that one reason the company isn’t inclined to offer an ad-free version for users who pay is that they want users to find ads on the site useful, rather than viewing them as a burden.

A general suggested at an event that the Air Force was able to target an attack on a building used by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) based on a single social media post, according to an account published by Defense Tech.

The Sunlight Foundation’s tool to track lawmakers’ deleted tweets was crippled after a three-year run…

…yielding a rebuke from the open government group.


Please send tips and comments to David McCabe, dmccabe@thehill.com and Mario Trujillo,mtrujillo@thehill.comFollow us on Twitter:@HilliconValley, @dmccabe


Tags Lindsey Graham Mark Warner Patent reform Patent trolls Senate Judiciary Committee Ted Cruz

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