December 1, 2021

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Unlimited Technology

Who’s going to lead the telecom panel?

With help from John Hendel and Emily Birnbaum

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— House intrigue: Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) is retiring from Congress. Who will replace him as chair of the House Energy and Commerce telecom panel?

— Show yourself: There’s no law requiring public identification of patent owners after a patent is issued. Senators today will discuss why that’s a bad idea, especially as the U.S. competes with China.

— Hitting the floor: House lawmakers will take up four telecom bills today, in an effort to better secure communications networks and supply chains.

IT’S TUESDAY, OCT. 19. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. Are you also thinking about making an exit from Congress? Let me know.

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DOYLE EXIT TO SHAKE UP HOUSE DEMOCRATS’ TECH LEADERSHIP Get ready for speculation over who will take over as top Democrat on the telecom subcommittee whose jurisdiction covers everything from broadband and net neutrality to media ownership and online liability protections, a coveted spot among lawmakers.

The position will open in early 2023, when Doyle leaves Congress after more than a quarter-century. Among his potential successors are senior Democrats like Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.). A person close to Matsui, who serves as Doyle’s vice chair and co-chairs the Spectrum Caucus, reached out to John shortly after the announcement, telling him that she would be a “terrific choice.” (Her office didn’t comment.)

— Doyle’s legacy: The Pennsylvania Democrat replaced Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) as the subcommittee’s top Democrat in 2017 and became chair in 2019. He has prioritized efforts to restore Obama-era net neutrality regulations that were repealed during the Trump years. His bill to do so cleared the House in 2019 but died in the Senate. He has also pushed for aggressive investment (in the scores of billions) to build out broadband internet infrastructure and better coordination on 5G airwaves, and has helped shape recent debates over infrastructure spending.

Doyle also enjoyed generally productive negotiations with his GOP counterparts, such as former E&C Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who retired last year. (One of their bipartisan collaborations: a measure to sunset a decades-old satellite TV law).

— Why now? In remarks Monday, Doyle cited the pandemic and redistricting among his retirement calculations. But one other factor could be Democrats’ steep challenge in holding onto their House majority in the 2022 midterms — and it’s less fun being in the minority. The elections are “shaping up to look a lot like 36 of the 39 other midterms of the party in power for the first two years in the White House,” Walden told John recently. “Probably more likely than not, the Republicans take the House majority.” (Several Democratic Hill staffers are also leaving.)

— One perk of the post: Top E&C lawmakers tend to rake in plenty of cash from the tech and telecom interests they oversee. (Doyle’s campaign war chest collected donations from the political action committees of Comcast, Google and USTelecom.)

SENATE JUDICIARY SHINES LIGHT ON PATENT OWNERSHIP — The Senate Judiciary intellectual property panel will discuss today the importance of knowing who owns U.S. patents, especially in the context of national security concerns. The hearing builds on a piece of legislation — the Pride in Patent Ownership Act — introduced by Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) last month.

“As America positions itself to compete with China over the technologies that will drive our future, such as 5G, we simply need to know how much of our intellectual property is in the hands of foreign countries,” Leahy will say, per prepared remarks, warning that foreign competitors are stockpiling U.S. patents.

The proposed bill would require patent owners to disclose their identities to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office whenever a patent is issued or is transferred, information that would then be accessible to the public.

— Public interest: Leahy will also note how the lack of such a law has affected small businesses and entrepreneurs, who may have to engage in expensive and drawn-out litigation just to find out who owns a patent. Without that information, someone may not know who is suing them or who to contact to license a patent.

That’s particularly concerning, according to Tillis, given how heavily the American economy relies on patents and other intellectual property rights. “It doesn’t make sense to require inventors and investors to waste resources navigating the patent system instead of developing new technologies, discovering new cures and researching new frontiers,” he will say.

— Elsewhere in patent land: The Innovation Alliance, a coalition that represents R&D-based tech companies like Qualcomm, on Friday filed comments with the USPTO as part of its study on how confusion over what is patentable is impacting key technology areas, such as artificial intelligence. “The ability to obtain patents overseas, but not in the United States, favors our foreign competitors and disadvantages U.S. companies,” the coalition warned in its filing.

TELECOM BILLS HIT THE HOUSE FLOOR — The House is expected to take up a slate of four telecom bills today related to supply chain and security issues. The legislation will be considered under suspension of the rules, an expedited process, typically reserved for less controversial bills, that bars floor amendments.

— What’s in them? One of the bills would make sure the FCC doesn’t approve radio frequency devices that pose a national security risk (H.R. 3919); another would promote Open RAN technology among small providers (H.R. 4032); a third would establish a council at the FCC to boost the security, reliability and interoperability of communications networks (H.R. 4067); and a fourth would direct the Commerce Department to develop a strategy related to the economic competitiveness of the information and communication technology supply chain (H.R. 4028).

— Another bill of interest: Lawmakers will consider the AI in Counterterrorism Oversight Enhancement Act, H.R. 4469, on Wednesday, which would expand the scope of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency in the executive branch, to include artificial intelligence’s use in counterterrorism efforts.

CARR TO CALL FOR ADDING DRONE-MAKER DJI TO FCC THREAT LIST— GOP Commissioner Brendan Carr will today call for beginning the process of adding global drone manufacturing giant DJI to the FCC list of so-called “covered” entities, a source tells John. That list currently contains five companies deemed to pose security risks to the U.S., all of which have ties to China (two of note are Huawei and ZTE).

Shenzhen-headquartered DJI, which occupies a large share of the U.S. drone marketplace, has stoked security fears over concerns that it collects huge swaths of sensitive user data. Carr will speak about these issues at an event this morning.

— Road ahead: The process of adding the drone-maker to the threat list could be complicated and would likely involve interagency coordination, but there are signs that U.S. officials could make it happen. The Commerce Department added DJI to its own trade blacklist at the end of last year, citing alleged human rights violations in China. And the Pentagon raised its own concerns this year.

AMAZON’S SMALL BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS — Amid growing scrutiny over allegations that the company exploits its sellers, Amazon released a report this morning touting the mutually beneficial relationship between the e-commerce giant and those that sell on the platform.

The report found that there are more than 500,000 U.S. sellers, who sold more than 3.8 billion products on the platform and created 1.8 million new jobs in the U.S.

But a recent investigation by Reuters, followed by another from The Markup, found that Amazon “exploit[ed] proprietary data from individual sellers to launch competing products and manipulat[ed] search results to increase sales of the company’s own goods.” Those practices, which reportedly took place in India, have also been the subject of scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers. (Amazon has denied those accusations.)

“Sellers have more choices than ever and it’s incumbent on us to be doing an amazing job to delight sellers,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of worldwide customer trust and partner support.

— Under pressure: Senators on Monday formally introduced legislation that would prevent tech giants, including Amazon, from prioritizing their own products. (That bill picked up an additional cosponsor, Republican Steve Daines of Montana.) The tech industry has lobbied fiercely against tech antitrust legislation in Congress, and Amazon has even reached out to some third-party sellers to warn against the bills. “They’ve appreciated the awareness,” Mehta said. “They’ve also appreciated some help and partnership. It’s something we continue to learn and figure out the right ways to work together.”

Mark Chandler, Cisco’s former longtime general counsel, has joined Georgetown Law’s Center for National Security to help lead its new NatSec Tech program. … Erika Crawford Tom is now product manager at the U.S. Digital Service. She most recently was lead product manager at Attentive and is also a Palantir alum. … Daniel Kaufman is now a partner in BakerHostetler’s digital assets and data management practice group. He recently was acting director for the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC.

Tim McBride will be president of ST Engineering North America. He previously was SVP of global government relations at Raytheon and is a United Technologies and George H.W. Bush alum. … Rebecca Osmolski is now digital director for Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). She most recently was digital comms assistant for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Shopify and Unity are joining BSA | The Software Alliance as global members. Shopify’s Vivek Narayanadas and Unity’s Ruth Ann Keene are joining the board of directors.

Match Group’s Hinge is partnering with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to launch a campaign “helping singles combat loneliness” by highlighting best practices for dating during the pandemic.

Leahy released the remaining Senate appropriations bills, which largely reflected what House lawmakers wanted for tech and telecom agencies. One difference: a $9 million drop for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s budget.

Brand disparity: “At Amazon, Some Brands Get More Protection From Fakes Than Others,” Bloomberg reports.

Bill-gate: “Microsoft Executives Told Bill Gates to Stop Emailing a Female Staffer Years Ago,” via WSJ.

New POV: Big tech companies are geopolitical actors shaping the world order, and that’s how they need to be viewed, Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer writes in Foreign Affairs.

Something different: “New political ad strategy in Virginia: Promoting news articles in Google search results,” via WaPo.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected]), Leah Nylen ([email protected]), Emily Birnbaum ([email protected]), and Benjamin Din ([email protected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.

SEE YOU TOMORROW!

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