Overnight Tech: High court hears case on where patent suits are filed | House to vote on blocking internet privacy rules | Facebook's new tools for voters

Overnight Tech: High court hears case on where patent suits are filed | House to vote on blocking internet privacy rules | Facebook's new tools for voters
© Getty Images

SCOTUS LOOKS AT PATENT LAWSUITS: The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a case challenging a law that allows plaintiffs to pick the court where they file patent lawsuits.

The case, TC Heartland v. Kraft Heinz, might not appear to be tied to tech at first glance, but is being closely watched by Silicon Valley.

Heartland, a beverage flavor company, is appealing a decision over a patent infringement suit it brought against Kraft. Kraft filed the case in Delaware, but Heartland wants it moved to Indiana, its home base.

That request, though, was denied by a lower court. Heartland is now challenging that decision.

Heartland's problems with the decision parallel a similar issue faced in the tech industry: patent suit plaintiffs frequently seek to move patent cases to a rural district in East Texas, that in recent years has been favorable to such lawsuits.


Defendants in these cases often contend that the ability of the plaintiff to pick the venue disadvantages them. In 2014, one judge in the small Texas town, Marshall, handled about a quarter of all patent infringement cases. 72 percent of all patent holder wins came from this district.

Companies dubbed "patent trolls," or entities that hold patents, but usually don't manufacture anything, have filed a slew of lawsuits in the district.

That's enraged some tech companies who keep find themselves on the losing side of those suits. Dell, Oracle, Intel and Adobe have all filed amicus briefs in support of Heartland's argument against plaintiff court shopping.

Companies on the other side, including Ericsson, who have benefited from the status quo, filed amicus briefs supporting Kraft.

During the arguments presented at the Supreme Court today, a lawyer representing Kraft argued that problems stemming from patent cases in East Texas shouldn't affect the case as it pertained to his client.

"In other words, it's an inconvenient forum compared to where I am located. They tend to be complaints about how the cases are managed, how discovery takes place, how motions practice is handled, and so on," Kraft's lawyer said. "They are problems that should be dealt with on their own terms..."

But several justices questioned that argument.

They noted a 1957 Supreme Court decision that said "any civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides." Reside being interpreted to mean where it the company was incorporated.

A decision is expected by the end of June.

Please send your tips, comments and praise to Ali Breland (abreland@thehill.com) and Harper Neidig (hneidig@thehill.com) and follow us on Twitter: @alibreland@hneidig  and @HilliconValley. We're also on Signal. Email or DM us for our numbers.

HOUSE VOTE TOMORROW ON BROADBAND PRIVACY: The House will vote Tuesday on eliminating Obama-era Federal Communications Commission privacy regulations on internet service providers. The vote comes days after Senate Republicans passed a bill introduced by Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE (R-Ariz.) that would block the rules under the Congressional Review Act. That measure passed the Senate on Friday in a 50-48 party-line vote.

If it passes the House and is signed by President Trump, as is widely expected, the resolution would nullify privacy rules that make it harder for internet providers to sell consumer data. The FCC rules would have required broadband providers to get permission from their customers before using or sharing their data for advertising purposes. The rule covers data including the apps consumers use, the websites they visit and their location.

Read more here.

...AND GROUPS ARE ALREADY MOBILIZING AGAINST THE BILL: An internet rights group is promising to put up billboards attacking lawmakers who vote in favor of a bill that would dismantle privacy protections for internet users. If the bill is signed into law, as is widely expected, the Fight for the Future campaign will put up billboards in Washington, D.C., and select districts that list the lawmakers who voted for the measure.

A draft of the billboard shows a list of the 50 Republicans who voted for the bill on Thursday in the Senate, along with the text, "They betrayed you."

Read more here.

UK MINISTER ATTACKS TECH OVER ENCRYPTION: British Home Secretary Amber Rudd called encrypted apps "completely unacceptable" on a BBC Sunday talk show in the wake of last week's Westminster attack -- one of multiple officials to call for encryption backdoors.

"We need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into encrypted systems like WhatsApp," Rudd said on "The Andrew Marr Show." Police investigating last week's slaying of four people on the Westminster Bridge in London believe Khalid Masood acted alone in the attack, driving a car into pedestrians and stabbing a police officer to death. Officers shot him dead on the scene.

Newspapers have reported that Masood, who grew up in Kent, England, used the chatting app "WhatsApp," which is encrypted in a way so that police cannot retrieve messages without his password.

Read more here.

NEW CIVIC TOOLS FROM FACEBOOK: Facebook is launching new tools to spur civic and political engagement. The social media company on Monday announced that it is rolling out three new products to help users more easily find information about their representatives, connect them with those lawmakers and remind the public about local elections.

"Building a civically-engaged community means building new tools to help people engage in a thoughtful and informed way," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the new tools in a post. "The starting point is knowing who represents you and how you can make your voice heard on the decisions that affect your life."

One of the tools, called "Town Hall," will direct users to their representative's Facebook profiles and allow constituents to call, message or email them directly from the app.

Read more here.

KUSHNER TO LEAD BUSINESS ADVISORY GROUP: The Washington Post reported that President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner will head up a group of business leaders that will advise the administration on how to reform government operations. Among those working with the White House Office of American Innovation are tech titans like Bill Gates, Tesla's Elon Musk, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

"We should have excellence in government," Kushner told the Post. "The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens."


Day two of the NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association policy conference starts at 8 a.m.

House Homeland Security Committee hosts hearing on cybersecurity at 10 a.m.

The House Commerce consumer protection subcommittee holds a hearing on self-driving cars at 10 a.m.


The New York Times examines the efforts to implement internet privacy laws at the state level

Maureen Dowd looks at Elon Musk and his views on artificial intelligence in Vanity Fair

Speculation grows over Trump FCC pick

Consumer groups worry as internet privacy rules face the axe

WSJ: Uber suspends its self-driving car program after an accident

Axios: Zuckerberg's road trip resembles a political campaign

BuzzFeed: Apple released its 2017 Supplier Responsibility report, which includes analysis on transparency regarding conflict minerals