STLR Link Round Up – October 2, 2015

New Rules Require Credit Cards to Use Security Chips

As of October 1, retailers may be liable for fraudulent transactions at their stores if they fail to use chip cards. Visa and MasterCard set the deadline for the new rules as part of their agreement with various retailers and banks, and American Express will be shifting liability to their retail partners on October 16. The new rules follow President Obama’s executive order last year mandating the use of chip-and-PIN technology in government issued credit and debit cards. The new chip cards contain microprocessors which create unique, encrypted information for each transaction.

This should make it more difficult for credit card thieves to duplicate the information from one transaction and reuse it for a fraudulent purchase. Although the new cards will likely improve the security of credit card transactions, they do not serve as complete protection. Online transactions are still vulnerable to fraud and the overall fraud rate is unlikely to decrease until a critical mass of consumers adopts the technology.

This could prove problematic given that many customers still have not received their chip enabled cards and many retailers will not be equipped to handle chip-enabled transactions for another year. Retailers have also complained that they are the ones bearing the more significant burden in switching to the new system and that the chip-and-signature system adopted by the major credit card companies is significantly less effective at preventing fraud than the chip-and-PIN system currently used in Europe and by the federal government. Credit card companies have defended the new rules, emphasizing that the new cards will prevent at least some fraudulent transactions.

Policymakers Seek to Regulate Cell-Site Simulators

In early September, the Department of Justice announced a new policy governing its use of cell-site simulators designed to improve transparency through specific data-handling requirements and an auditing program. The simulators allow law enforcement to track individual’s phones by mimicking cell phone towers and thereby connecting to cell phones in the area. Stingray, the most widely known cell-site simulator, collects cell phones’ serial numbers, which authorities use to monitor phone locations or record phone calls made. The DoJ emphasized that simulators can only collect location information and call traffic, and that the new guidelines require officers to get warrants before using the simulators, except in exigent or exceptional circumstances. In total, over 20 states use Stingray as part of their law enforcement efforts, but only Utah, Virginia, and Washington have passed bills requiring law enforcement agents to receive a warrant prior to using cell-site simulators, with  similar legislation pending in the U.S. Senate.

Patent Battle Over Genetic Engineering Tool May Soon Be Over

In 2012, scientists announced a technique called CRISPR that enabled rapid editing of DNA. CRISPR has proven very successful in genetic and biomedical research, helping scientists develop treatment for diseases and create designer crops. Patent issues, however, have plagued the technology. Over a year ago, a patent was issued to researchers at MIT for a method using CRISPR-Cas9, which relies on a particular enzyme for genome editing. In April of this year, a number of parties challenged the original CRISPR patent, both in the United States and in Europe. One of the parties fighting the patent has even claimed Twitter handles based on the protein, such as @CRISPRCas9.

This patent battle may turn out to be moot though: a researcher at MITone of the parties in the ongoing disputehas announced the discovery of a new CRISPR enzyme: Cpf1. Cpf1 may turn out to be more popular and easier to use than Cas9, and may herald the development of a wide-range of enzymes that can all be used edit genes, making patents less valuable in this rapidly growing field. Not that the patent uncertainty has stopped numerous companiessuch as Caribou, Editas and CRISPR Technologiesfrom continuing to raise capital and invest in developing this gene editing tool. But perhaps the settling of some of these patent claims will allow these companies to focus on the other major legal hurdle limiting widespread use of CRISPR: rules regulating the use of genome editing in human embryos.

Google and Microsoft Settle Patent Claims

Continuing a series of high profile patent settlements between technology giants, including Apple/Samsung and Microsoft/Samsung, Google and Microsoft announced that they were settling a number of patent claims in both the United States and Germany. The 18 patent infringement claims covered a wide range of patents, including cell phones, wifi, and Microsoft’s Xbox platform. The settlement includes cases related to Motorola Mobility, which Google sold to Lenovo last year, but does not preclude future patent infringement suits.

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