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Tech Edge

Senate Punts Again on Patents

Welcome to National Journal's Tech Edge, a morning tip sheet with the news you need in technology policy, featuring a roundup of the best coverage and exclusive tips for the day ahead. Got this by forward? Sign up at http://www.nationaljournal.com/tech-edge.

By Alex Brown (@AlexBrownNJ), Laura Ryan (@NJLJRyan), Brendan Sasso (@BrendanSasso), and Dustin Volz (@dnvolz)

TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: The Senate Judiciary Committee announced it won't have a manager's amendment or markup on patent legislation until after the recess. The House will zero-in on ICANN today, with a Commerce subcommittee markup of the DOTCOM Act, and a Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the issue with NTIA chief Larry Strickling and ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé. The Heartbleed bug continues to strike fear in the hearts of users around the web.

 

TOP NEWS

PATENT ACTION DELAYED UNTIL AFTER RECESS: While announcing that a deal has been reached "in principle," the Senate Judiciary Committee again pushed back its unveiling and markup of its patent-reform package—the fourth such postponement in the last two weeks—from Thursday until after the two-week recess that starts on Friday. "We have made enormous progress, and we now have a broad bipartisan agreement in principle," Chairman Patrick Leahy said in a statement sent out late Wednesday. "This is a complex issue and we need additional time to draft the important provisions that have been the subject of discussion."

Leahy said that he will have a manager's amendment ready "the day we return from recess" and that his panel will consider it the first week back. While many reform advocates remain hopeful that the committee can punch something through quickly upon their return, everyone knows the Senate's election-year calendar isn't getting any longer. Two weeks of waiting begins.

WHAT'S CAUSING THE DELAY?: Hiccups earlier in the week involved fee-shifting, and while one aide said Thursday that issue was still a bit of a "sticking point," sources on the Hill and close to the negotiations suggested work remains on the customer-stay provision, which aims to protect end-users from patent troll abuses by allowing manufacturers and suppliers to jump in and handle the litigation on their behalf. While most sides support some version of customer stay, the National Retail Foundation has sought somewhat of a home-run on the issue, believing it largely lost out on its two other key issues (demand letters and covered business method expansion).

A spokesman for NRF confirmed that "work still needs to be done" on customer stay, but that "negotiations are ongoing." He pointed to Sen. John Cornyn's early departure from D.C. to attend a memorial service in Texas for the victims of a recent Fort Hood shooting as additional cause for the delay.

HOUSE PANEL TO VOTE TO DELAY INTERNET TRANSFER: The House Communications and Technology Subcommittee will vote this morning on the DOTCOM Act, which would block the U.S. from giving up oversight of Internet address functions pending a Government Accountability Office review. Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden said in an opening statement Wednesday that the bill just "tells the administration to pause and evaluate." But Democrats will fight back against the legislation, saying it would undermine the "multistakeholder" model of Internet governance, which Congress unanimously endorsed with a resolution in 2012.

"It's unfortunate that we are embarking on a path in this markup that effectively unravels the important work that our subcommittee has done," Rep. Anna Eshoo, the panel's top Democrat, said. "It still remains a mystery to me how this U-turn has come about."

DEMOCRATS REGAIN FTC MAJORITY: The Senate voted 95 to 1 (with Republican Sen. David Vitter as the lone dissenter) to confirm Terrell McSweeny to a seat on the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday. The vote returns the FTC to full-strength for the first time in a year and gives the Democrats a 3-2 edge. President Obama nominated McSweeny, a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden, last June.

DEMOCRATS SKEPTICAL OF CABLE MERGER: Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Amy Klobuchar expressed serious concerns with Comcast's proposed $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable at Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and Chairman Patrick Leahy questioned whether the cable TV and broadband markets are competitive. But only Sen. Al Franken came out swinging against the deal. He claimed the merger would "result in fewer choices, higher prices, and even worse service for my constituents."

Comcast argued the deal wouldn't hurt competition because its network does not overlap with Time Warner Cable in any markets. But Franken noted that when Comcast wanted to buy NBC-Universal in 2010, it pointed to TWC as evidence of robust competition in the video marketplace. "Comcast can't have it both ways," the Minnesota Democrat said.

Cohen repeated his admission that the merger wouldn't lower cable bills, but he claimed there is "nothing in this transaction that will cause anyone's cable bills to go up." As for the Republicans, Sen. Mike Lee worried the deal could hurt conservative outlets.

SENATE PANEL APPROVES DRIVER PRIVACY BILL: The Senate Commerce Committee voted Wednesday to advance the Driver Privacy Act, which would enhance privacy standards for car data.

HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE SETS DATE FOR COMCAST-TWC MERGER HEARING: The House Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on the Comcast-TWC merger on May 8 at 9:30 a.m.

TOP LINES

CHANGE THESE PASSWORDS RIGHT NOW: Mashable's "Heartbleed Hit List" breaks down which passwords you need to change immediately. (Mashable)

HEARTBLEED IS AS BAD AS IT COULD POSSIBLY BE: When Internet security expert Bruce Schneier says, "On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11," you know it's bad. Real bad. (Rusty Foster, New Yorker)

WHAT BILL CLINTON'S SNOWDEN REMARKS COULD MEAN FOR HILLARY: The former president's comments don't exactly jibe with what Obama has said about the fugitive. (Volz)

HP SETTLES FEDERAL CORRUPTION PROBE: HP will pay $108 million to settle a corruption investigation by the Justice Department and SEC. (Edwin Chan, Reuters)

LOFGREN CALLS FOR FOR PRIVACY REFORMS: Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren says the President's proposed surveillance reforms do not go far enough. (Kate Tummarello, The Hill)

THE FED'S DEAL WITH IN-FLIGHT WI-FI COMPANIES TRIGGERS PRIVACY CONCERNS: The inflight wireless provider GoGo may be sharing more information with the federal government than necessary, according to a letter submitted to the FCC. (Kim Zetter, Wired)

DROPBOX'S NEXT STEPS: Pointing to a photo of a house teetering on the edge of a cliff, Dropbox Founder and CEO Drew Houston asked his company's employees recently, "Are we this beautiful house sitting on top of a cliff?" (Stone/Levy, Businessweek)

THE DAY AHEAD

  • The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will vote on the DOTCOM Act at 9 a.m.
  • The House Judiciary subcommittee on Courts, IP, and the Internet will hold a hearing on Internet governance at 9 a.m.
  • Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will testify before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Department of Commerce's 2015 budget request at 10 a.m.
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