Startup News Digest 6/22/2018

Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy. To receive this weekly digest in your inbox, sign up at

The Big Story: A big week for patent milestones. It’s been a big week in the patent world, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issuing its 10 millionth utility patent just three years after granting the 9 millionth.

Additionally, four years ago this week, the Supreme Court ruled in Alice v. CLS Bank to limit software patent eligibility to truly new and novel innovations and exclude instances in which a computer function is applied to an otherwise unpatentable abstract idea. The ruling was a huge win for startups who were frequently targets of abusive patent litigants armed with low-quality patents. And despite overblown fears that Alice would hurt the software industry, we’ve seen increases in patent applications, venture capital funding, and research spending since the decision was handed down.

As we all think through the importance of patent quality this week, Engine is launching a new campaign to educate policymakers about the need to protect patent quality. Innovate Without Fear highlights the significant improvements made to our patent system over the past five years and explains how our innovation system has benefited.

Policy Roundup:

A win for location privacy. The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that law enforcement needs to obtain a warrant before accessing historical cell phone location data in criminal investigations, showcasing the court’s awareness of how evolving technologies provide an increasingly in-depth view into users’ lives.

SCOTUS hits small sellers. The Supreme Court ruled this week that each state can force remote retailers to collect online sales tax for that state. While brick-and-mortar retailers claim that this decision will allow them to more fairly compete with online retailers, it will likely have a devastating impact on startup e-commerce companies that will now have to figure out how to comply with innumerable tax rules in every state in which their customers reside.

White House eyes privacy moves. The Trump administration has kicked off an effort to rethink a federal approach to online privacy and the use of personal data with a series of meeting with industry groups, according to Axios.

Article 13 advances. A drastic update to the European Copyright Directive was approved by a panel of EU lawmakers this week, sparking outrage as many call this the beginning of unreasonable copyright monitoring and censorship of the Internet. A final parliamentary vote will take place in early July, and the final legislative amendments will continue until the end of the year.

Why we shouldn’t fear AI. Robert Atkinson, founder of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, published an essay this week encouraging EU policymakers to embrace AI and foster the productivity gains it promises to facilitate.

Senators sound alarms over Trump tariffs. Both Republican and Democratic Senators tore into Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross this week over the imposition of tariffs on tech products being imported from China. A bipartisan group of lawmakers called the tariffs a “tax on small businesses” and harmful to innovation.

Startup Roundup:

#StartupsEverywhere: New Hampshire.
 The “First in the Nation” state is not always first we think of when thinking about startups and innovation. However, Joshua Cyr at Alpha Loft is working to change that narrative and improve entrepreneurs prospects for successfully launching and scaling innovation-based startups in New Hampshire. While Joshua and his team work to expand and build the innovation ecosystem in the Granite state, limited resources are still a struggle for this growing ecosystem.

Rise of the Rest tour. We are not the only ones who believe startups are everywhere. Since 2014, Steve Case has gone on seven bus tours to encourage entrepreneurship across the country. The tour not only brings sizable investments, but also facilitates important business relationships to maximize impact.

Next stop, unicorn status. Check out this list of 29 US companies that have reached valuations between $500 million and $999 million so far this year. By this time next year, it's likely that many of them, such as Wag! and ZipRecruiter, will become unicorns.