President Obama Nominates New Director of the USPTO
On Thursday, October 16, President Barack Obama nominated Michelle Lee to be the next director of the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) following former director David Kappos’ resignation last year. Formerly a Partner at Silicon Valley firm Fenwick & West, Lee served as Google’s deputy general counsel from 2003 to 2012 before serving as the Director of the Silicon Valley Office of the USPTO. She holds a master’s degree from MIT and a JD from Stanford Law School. Lee’s nomination has been deemed a “victory” for the technology industry in their fight against patent “trolls.” Lee would be the first woman to officially hold this position at the USPTO.
New York’s BitLicense Proposal
The State of New York has proposed a regulatory framework for businesses that accept bitcoins, which are a form of digital currency. The proposed framework, called “BitLicense,” aims to protect consumers and fight money laundering by requiring companies who use digital currencies to acquire mandatory licenses. The New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) accepted comments from the public about this proposal and have received negative responses from organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and from user comments to its post on Reddit, who say that the regulations might stifle competition, reduce innovation, and be too difficult to comply with. The NYDFS will be issuing a new proposal incorporating these comments and allowing for another comment period.
US Congress Fights a “Crypto” War
Hot on the heels of major Fourth Amendment cases about the search and seizure of cell phone data, FBI director James Comey has stated that he believes that cell phone encryption will hinder the federal government in its fight against terrorism and child pornography. In response to Apple’s announcement that it will be encrypting its phones to protect from police examinations, Comey has called on Congress to make amendments to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) that would give federal law enforcement agencies “front door” access to see users’ encrypted cell phone data. However, in the face of heightened scrutiny of government agencies after the NSA relevations, members of Congress from both major parties have spoken out against Comey, saying that a bill of this nature would have “zero chance” of passing.