STLR Link Roundup – October 12, 2012

Patent Battles and Reform Efforts in the United States

The New York Times reports that Apple is using its patents as a sword against iPhone competitors, including Google’s Motorola Mobility. Google’s executive chairman says that the Google-Apple patent battle has lowered prices for consumers, but is killing innovation. Meanwhile, David Drummond, the chief legal officer for Google (which has been under scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission issues for the past year for possible antitrust violations, and more recently for its smartphone technology patents), discussed the challenges in Google’s quest to reform the U.S. patent system to reduce litigation (and trolls) around mobile devices and software.  Drummond suggested the solution may look more like the patent systems abroad, but would Google approve of the UK’s new plan to award tax breaks to corporations that use patents?


Privacy Advocates and Industry Representatives Struggle to Compromise on Online Tracking and Data Use

A new study shows that most Americans are wary of online tracking. Such concerns are being discussed at a closed-door international conference of privacy advocates and industry representatives, but insiders say the status quo is winning.  Hopefully an effective compromise will be reached before the conference, organized by the global standard group that promotes good governance of the internet, W3C, concludes on Friday.  Echoing those privacy concerns, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Senator John D. Rockefeller, has opened an investigation to determine what consumer information is being collected and sold by nine leading information brokers.  Meanwhile, Equifax settled charges that it improperly sold data on consumers who fell behind on their mortgages; the company will pay $393,000 to the FTC, but admits no wrongdoing.


Around the U.S. Courts

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that the criminal case against file-sharing website Megaupload will proceed. Pfizer will pay $164 million to settle a shareholder class action accusing the company of misrepresenting Celebrex clinical trials. BitTorrent piracy evidence will be tested first time in a Pennsylvania District Court.  Also in Pennsylvania, a federal judge dismissed a former employee’s complaint that her employer violated anti-hacking law when it accessed and assumed control of her LinkedIn account after she was fired. The court concluded that her harms were too speculative to proceed under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.


Government Regulation of Cars and Cable

The state regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission assert that Sidecar and other ride-sharing app companies do not have the proper permits and authority, and have hit the companies with cease-and-desist orders.  Sidecar maintains that the Commission mischaracterizes their company, stating that it is a communication tool and not a car service.  The FCC unanimously agreed not to renew a rule requiring cable companies that own content to sell the channels to competitors like satellite broadcasters on fair terms.  Competitors still have some recourse: they may file individual complaints if they feel a cable company is acting unreasonably.


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