The Big Story: U.S. acts on Chinese firms. The U.S. Commerce Department added eight Chinese artificial intelligence companies to its trade blacklist this week, even as reports emerged that the Trump administration plans to issue licenses to allow some U.S. companies to continue supplying nonsensitive products to Chinese telecoms firm Huawei. The decisions both came as the U.S. and China resumed discussions this week to resolve their ongoing trade dispute.
The FTC is reviewing potential updates to a children’s privacy law to determine whether changes need to be made to the law to account for “evolving business practices.” While protecting children’s privacy online is a shared goal of the FTC and the tech community, some potential changes to the rules under the law could impact platforms across the Internet, especially startups.
The Big Story: Federal court issues ruling on net neutrality.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this week upheld parts of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 repeal of the popular net neutrality rules, although the court struck down a portion of the agency’s order that kept states from enacting their own net neutrality regulations.
Encryption is back in the news this week with a major piece in the New York Times blaming the spread of child exploitation material in part on encryption and an upcoming Justice Department event on encryption’s “impact on child exploitation cases.” But proposals to undermine strong encryption could undermine the way startups and tech companies ensure their users’ privacy and security.
The Big Story: U.S., Japan reach deal on digital trade. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announced this week that the United States and Japan reached a limited trade deal on agricultural products and digital trade. The limited accord, announced from the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, represents the first step towards a larger trade agreement between the two countries.
As congressional leaders continue to explore ways of addressing online disinformation ahead of the 2020 elections, it’s important that policymakers understand the difficulties digital platforms already face before impulsively moving forward with flawed legislation that would roll back critical liability protections.
The Big Story: Lawmakers, tech industry take on hateful online content. Facebook, Google, and Twitter defended their efforts to combat online extremism during testimony before a Senate panel this week, even as some lawmakers pushed for measures that would force online platforms to take more drastic steps to remove hateful content.
TLDR: California lawmakers have run out of time to fix problems in the state’s sweeping privacy law before it goes into effect next year, leaving startups hoping that Congress will step in and create a strong, uniform federal privacy law that protects consumers without creating unnecessary and costly burdens. If other states move forward with privacy legislation mirroring California's law, it will create a patchwork of requirements that will have an outsized impact on smaller companies hoping to operate across state lines.
The Big Story: CASE Act exacerbates existing copyright problems. The bill that could make copyright law more confusing and easy to misuse is making its way through the House. The House Judiciary Committee held a markup on Tuesday of the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019,” or the “CASE Act.” As Engine IP Counsel Abby Rives explained in a recent InsideSources op-ed, the CASE Act—which passed committee on a voice vote—would “exacerbate existing problems in copyright enforcement and cause new ones.”
The Big Story: Tech news from the G-7 summit. French President Emmanuel Macron announced during the G-7 summit that France and the United States reached “a very good agreement” to end a standoff on France’s new digital services tax on online platforms. In a press conference with President Trump, Macron said tech companies that pay the tax could deduct the amount after an international deal on taxing Internet companies is finalized next year.
A recent Federal Circuit decision addressing the constitutionality of inter partes review (IPR)—a Patent Office review of a patent that has already been issued—is a positive development for promoting patent quality and leveling the playing field for startups involved in patent litigation. In Celgene Corp. v. Peter, the court held that IPR proceedings which result in the cancellation of issued patent claims are not an unconstitutional taking of private property. While it seems likely the Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on the question, for now IPRs remain available to startups who want to ask the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to take a second look at weak patents that arguably should have never issued.
The Big Story: 2019 Congressional Startup Day. This Wednesday, August 21st was Congressional Startup Day, a nationwide celebration of entrepreneurial communities across the United States. Lawmakers used the day to highlight the importance of the U.S. startup ecosystem, as well as learn more about the issues affecting startups in their districts and across their states. More than 50 members of Congress and their staffers agreed to meet with startups and entrepreneurs during the August recess as part of Congressional Startup Day festivities.
What’s happening this week: Representatives from tech companies and industry trade groups slammed France’s new digital services tax yesterday during a hearing held by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, saying that the legislation unfairly targets U.S. tech companies. The hearing came after the French Senate last month approved a 3 percent tariff on tech companies with more than 25 million euros (approximately $27.7 million) in French revenue, or have a global revenue of more than 750 million euros (approximately $832 million) per year.
What’s happening this week: The tech world is still digesting reports of a draft executive order from the White House that would empower the FTC and the FCC to crack down on social media platforms that moderate content that appears on their sites. The draft order, according to a summary obtained by CNN, would ask the FCC to develop regulations clarifying how and when digital platforms are protected when they remove online content. It also reportedly calls for the FTC to take the new regulations into account when it investigates or sues companies. The proposed order is not final and is subject to change, although it would represent a significant escalation of Trump administration’s allegations that social media sites are biased against conservatives.
The Big Story: Examining online extremism. The White House is holding a meeting on online extremism with tech and Internet platforms today in the wake of reports that the suspected perpetrator of last weekend’s deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas posted an anti-immigrant manifesto to online message board 8chan shortly before the shooting.
Startups facing patent litigation should be aware of recent, positive developments in patent venue law. This area of law dictates where a patentee-plaintiff can file an infringement lawsuit, and requires that a startup (or any company) can only be sued in a location (judicial district) where it has sufficient presence. Importantly, recent legal developments restrict parties—including patent assertion entities (PAEs), sometimes referred to as “patent trolls”—from suing startups in far-flung, plaintiff-friendly judicial districts. This levels the playing field in abusive patent litigation and benefits startups, who should no longer be required to defend litigation far from “home.”
What’s happening this week: In the wake of two tragic mass shootings over the weekend, officials are once again turning their attention to the spread of problematic content on the Internet after hateful messages from the shooter in El Paso were discovered on the online message board 8chan. President Donald Trump yesterday called on social media platforms to work with the Justice Department to identify potential mass shooters, saying that “we must shine light on the dark recesses of the Internet and stop mass murders before they start.”