STLR Link Round-Up – March 13, 2015

Obama Announces ‘TechHire’ Jobs Initiative

President Obama has announced a new $100 million grant program to train and hire new job seekers in the technology space. “TechHire” may not have the same ring as “America Works,” but the initiative plans to provide tech training and job placement opportunities in 20 regions across the country, with the help of 300 private sector employers. Together, these 20 regions have 120,000 openings in the technology sector, where some entry level positions in the sector far exceed those in other industries with similar education levels.

‘SuperFish’ Class Action Suit(s) Filed

We previously covered allegations that Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo had placed a spyware and malware application called “SuperFish” on a variety of its top consumer PC models. Since then, Lenovo has been slapped with a series of lawsuits in different jurisdictions by its American consumers.  The first lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, where the lead plaintiff has brought claims of trespass, wiretapping, and unfair competition. Since then, firms in Pennsylvania and New York have asked Lenovo customers to come forward and participate in additional class action suits. Yet, tech experts believe that it is still possible to receive a Lenovo computer with the SuperFish malware installed, as the company has yet to announce a formal recall. At least one security expert has called the SuperFish incident as “the single worst thing I have seen a manufacturer do to its customer base.”

More Tech Patents Struck Down by Alice

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Alice decision, legal scholars and practitioners have feared the “abolition of patents on software inventions.” This week, another four software patents, owned by PC manufacturer Hewlett Packard (HP), were struck down in federal court, joining the slew of software patents have been challenged in court post-Alice. The decision came after HP sued IT service management company ServiceNow for 8 counts of patent infringement, leading ServiceNow to file a counterclaim that 4 of the 8 patents were invalid under Alice. The patents covered abstract processes for managing IT service help requests.  In her opinion, U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman decried that HP’s patents, if enforced, would inhibit the software industry by requiring companies to acquire licenses to develop any programs that attempt to resolve IT service help requests. ServiceNow has also been sued in Texas federal court for infringing on another tech company’s service-based patents. This litigation, according to leading figures in the patent industry, services as another example where defendant’s in patent infringement suits have gained a significant advantage.

Snapchat Receives $15B Valuation

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba is reportedly nearing a $200 million investment with mobile photo sharing app SnapChat at a near-record $15B valuation. At first blush, the investment appears unintuitive, if not ironic, as SnapChat is banned in China. Tech experts postulate that SnapChat’s platform can be used by Alibaba to expand into a line of messaging and e-commerce services that better align with a consumer-based business model. During SnapChat’s last round of funding, the company had been valued at a paltry $10B, which Alibaba had reportedly attempted to join. To date, only two startup companies have higher valuations: consumer electronics company Xiaomi ($46B) and transportation company Uber ($41.2B).

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