This Week on Capitol Hill: DHS Facial Recognition Tech, Coons and Stivers to Reintroduce STRONGER Patents Act, and Think Tanks Explore Tech Issues in U.S.-China Trade War

The U.S. Senate gets busy today with hearings on the tech world’s impacts on America’s youth as well as NASA’s plans for manned missions on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. On Wednesday, Senator Coons and Representative Stivers will reintroduce the STRONGER Patents Act, which is aimed at strengthening the patent system and promoting innovation. NASA’s plans to commercialize low Earth orbit will also be discussed in the House of Representatives, along with biometric technologies employed by the Department for Homeland Security and cybersecurity threats to the U.S. energy grid. Around the U.S. capital, both the Brookings Institution and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will look at tech issues involved in the current trade war between the U.S. and China. ITIF will also explore the potential use of antitrust law to break up American tech giants on Thursday.

Tuesday, July 9 

Senate Committee on the Judiciary 

Protecting Innocence in a Digital World

At 10:00 AM on Tuesday in 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

In early July, the Internet Service Providers Association UK announced that web browser provider Mozilla was named a 2019 Internet Villain for its development of a new security protocol which allegedly bypassed UK filtering obligations and parental controls to undermine Internet safety standards. In recent weeks, the British children’s charity Barnardo’s issued a report warning that children under the age of five were at risk of developing Internet addiction. The witness panel for this hearing hasn’t been announced yet.

Senate Subcommittee on Energy 

Legislative Hearing

At 10:00 AM on Tuesday in 366 Dirksen.

The House Energy Subcommittee will convene a hearing to consider various pieces of proposed legislation, several of which relate to energy storage and renewable energy technologies. These include S. 1183, the Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act; S. 1593, the Promoting Grid Storage Act; S. 1602, the Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act; and S. 1685, the Launching Energy Advancement and Development through Innovations for Natural Gas Act.

Senate Subcommittee on Aviation and Space 

NASA Exploration Plans: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

At 3:00 PM on Tuesday in 562 Dirksen.

On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission to send astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon launched from Earth. The mission reached the moon by July 20 and touched back down on Earth on July 24. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of this mission, the Senate Aviation and Space Subcommittee will hold this hearing to honor the Apollo 11 mission and examine NASA’s future plans for manned spaceflight missions. The witness panel for this hearing will include Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration; Homer Hickam, Author, Rocket Boys; Gene Kranz, Flight Director, Apollo 11; and Eric Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Wednesday, July 10 

House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

A Review of NASA’s Plans for the International Space Station and Future Activities in Low Earth Orbit

At 10:00 AM on Wednesday in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.

In early June, NASA released a call for proposals as an appendix to the agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships public-private business program. NASA is seeking private partners to construct new modules for the International Space Station for commercial use as well as proposals for commercial uses of low Earth orbit. The witness panel for this hearing hasn’t been announced yet.

House Committee on Homeland Security 

About Face: Examining the Department of Homeland Security’s Use of Facial Recognition and Other Biometric Technologies

At 10:00 AM on Wednesday in 310 Cannon House Office Building.

In mid-June, Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Committee sent a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan in which they ask the secretary to describe the laws that authorize Customs and Border Patrol to use facial recognition and other biometric technologies on U.S. citizens at American airports. The witness panel for this hearing will include John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Austin Gould, Assistant Administrator, Requirements and Capabilities Analysis, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Joseph Di Petro, Chief Technology Officer, United States Secret Service; and Dr. Charles Romine, Director, Information Technology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation 

Is the U.S. Justified in Pushing Back Against Chinese Economic and Trade Policies?

At 10:00 AM on Wednesday at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, 1101 K St. N.W., Suite 610A, Washington, D.C., 20005.

The Trump Administration has followed through on several measures meant to punish China for its theft of American intellectual property, which has severely harmed U.S. corporations, but many have questioned whether the United States has the moral standing to take up this fight given its subsidization of domestic industries, among other reasons. This event will feature a discussion panel including Robert Atkinson, President, ITIF; Dean Baker, Senior Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research; Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; and Thea Lee, President, Economic Policy Institute. The panel will be moderated by Don Lee, Economics Reporter, LA Times.

Coons and Stivers to Reintroduce STRONGER Patents Act

At 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, S-207, The Mansfield Room, U.S. Capitol Building

U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and U.S. Representative Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) will reintroduce the STRONGER Patents Act in both the Senate and House of Representatives during a bipartisan, bicameral event that will include “other bill co-sponsors, inventors, university representatives, and tech industry supporters of the legislation.” Media contacts for the event expect it will be streamed live, although there was no link available at the time of publication.

Thursday, July 11 

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation 

Breaking Up Big Tech: Making Sense of the Debate

At 10:00 AM on Thursday at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Politicians in Washington D.C. have increasingly called for the breaking up of major American tech companies despite the consumer welfare standard for antitrust policy which instructs regulators to curb their actions unless a company is increasing prices or harming innovation. This event, which will explore the current U.S. antitrust regime and any changes that should be made regarding today’s tech giants, will feature a panel including Seth Bloom, President and Founder, Bloom Strategic Counsel; Jason Oxman, President and CEO, Information Technology Industry Council; Alec Stapp, Research Fellow, International Center for Law and Economics; and Thibault Schrepel, Faculty Affiliate, Berkman Center, Harvard University. The panel will be moderated by Robert Atkinson, President, ITIF.

The Brookings Institution 

The Role of Technology in the US-China Trade War

At 10:00 AM on Thursday at the Saul/Zilkha Auditorium, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C., 20036.

This event, co-hosted by the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, will discuss issues in the trade war between the U.S. and China, including Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. technology, and assess the strategies employed by the U.S. to combat technological theft. The event begins with a presentation from Joshua Meltzer, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development. Following the presentation, Meltzer will moderate a discussion panel including Robert Atkinson, Former Brookings Expert and President, ITIF; Paul Triolo, Practice Head, Geo-technology, Eurasia Group; and Derek Scissors, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute. Along with Meltzer, this panel will be moderated by Neena Shenai, Visiting Scholar, American Enterprise Institute. 

House Subcommittee on Research and Technology 

Bumper to Bumper: The Need for a National Surface Transportation Research Agenda

At 2:00 PM on Thursday in 2318 Rayburn.

At a June hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senators from both sides of the political aisle discussed the impacts that automated vehicles could have on improving mobility and safety across the American surface transportation system. The witness panel for this hearing hasn’t been announced yet.

Friday, July 12 

House Subcommittee on Energy 

Keeping the Lights On: Addressing Cyber Threats to the Grid

At 9:30 AM on Friday in 2123 Rayburn.

On June 27, the Senate passed the Securing Energy Infrastructure Act, a legislative measure designed to remove cybersecurity vulnerabilities from the U.S. energy grid by replacing automated systems within the grid with low-tech redundancies such as analog equipment and procedures controlled by human operators. The witness panel for this hearing hasn’t been announced yet.


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Join the Discussion

2 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Jeff Hardin]
    Jeff Hardin
    July 9, 2019 06:03 pm

    Unless the STRONGER Patents Act incorporates the provisions below, inventors should NOT support it:

    – Venue Reform.
    As a result of TC Heartland, an inventor who wishes to enforce her patent rights against an infringer does not have a convenient venue to do so. She did nothing wrong, yet now her work on innovation must halt while she spends the additional time and cost to traverse the United States to infringer-friendly district courts to enforce her rights against theft. The solution to this can be found in the proposed Section 1400(b)(4) of S.2733 of the 114th Congress—the Venue Equity and Non-Uniformity Elimination (VENUE) Act of 2016, legislation that was tabled given that TC Heartland was underway. Now the pendulum in full swing in favor of an infringer as a result of TC Heartland, a provision like that found in S.2733 would amend Section 1400(b), allowing an infringement action to be brought in judicial districts “where an inventor named on the patent in suit conducted research or development that led to the application for the patent in suit”. This would allow an inventor to more conveniently enforce her patent rights in the judicial district where she conducted her research; moreover, this language of this bill does not allow bad actors to participate in forum shopping. If Congress wants to promote Science and the Useful Arts among the Inventors listed in the Patent Clause of the Constitution, Congress should incorporate this very venue reform.

    – Inventor Consent for PTAB proceeding & Declaratory Judgement Venue.
    Plain and simple, inventors cannot receive contingency fee representation at the PTAB — there is no monetary damages award, so no attorney or firm will take such a challenge at the Patent Office on contingency. Thus, prior to an inventor being dragged into a post grant review, the inventor must provide consent to do so. Otherwise, patent challenges for patents held by inventors must be made in district court, where an inventor can receive contingency fee representation. Again, the inventor did nothing wrong — she was issued a patent that has been vetted by experts in the field. Why should she be penalized at her own cost in order to see if the government made a mistake? Especially when, according to the 2017 AIPLA Report on the Economic Survey, the average cost for a post grant review runs at $450,000.00. Correcting this unintended consequence would allow an inventor to obtain the same result — determining patent validity — as in a district court, while enjoying the benefit of receiving appropriate representation to enforce her rights; moreover, this would not allow bad actors to file frivolous lawsuits, as inventors listed on the face of patents are the inventors — they are not the supposed “bad actors” that is preached about by the efficient infringer lobby. Furthermore, in accordance with the proposed venue reform regarding where research was conducted, claims for declaratory judgement relating to an inventor-owned patent should also be limited to the district where the inventor is domiciled or has consented to jurisdiction. If Congress wants to promote Science and the Useful Arts among the Inventors listed in the Patent Clause of the Constitution, Congress should incorporate this very PTAB consent and declaratory judgement venue reform.

    – Restore Constitutional Exclusivity.
    Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the sole power to “promote the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” However, in eBay, the Supreme Court elected that it could decide what promotes the progress of science and the useful arts, and in doing so, it fundamentally changed the constitutional exclusive right bestowed upon an inventor by the grant of a letters patent to no longer exist. She now is forced to license her invention, which is equivalent to her losing the right to exclude others. This represents a real challenge for the independent inventor if she wants to compete in the market. If Congress wants to incentive inventors to enter the competitive market with more financially-abled businesses, Congress must enact a provision that includes the right to injunctive relief for patent holders upon a finding of infringement, providing independent inventors true ownership and exclusive rights over their disclosed inventions.

    – Abolish Retroactive Application of the AIA.
    The Supreme Court in Oil States opted not to address retroactive application of IPRs on patents having priority dates that predate the AIA; nevertheless, the AIA provides that the USPTO can unconstitutionally take a patent away from a patent holder by instituting an IPR on said patent. Moreover, such a taking by the Patent Office from inventors who disclosed their inventions prior to the AIA and who did not subject themselves to the provisions of its title is unjust, violates due process, and destroys any confidence in the social compact between inventors and the government, because, at any time, the government can change a legal contract ex post facto. Congress must restore integrity and confidence in the U.S. patent system. Abolishing retroactive application of the AIA on patents having priority dates that predate the law would restore confidence held by an inventor in her government and in the social compact patent bargain with the people, without fear that the government can unfairly change the rules in the middle of the game on a patent bargain already entered.

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    July 9, 2019 02:57 pm

    Re: Above’s “Breaking Up Big Tech”

    ” … which instructs regulators to curb their actions unless a company is increasing prices OR HARMING INNOVATION.”

    Through their constant and continuous misuse and misapplication of the AIA / IPRs / Etc.; their many millions in influence-peddling political contributions; their lies, cheating, and mischaracterizations (e.g. their discredited “troll” strawman baloney); these shameless serial patent infringers and innovation robbers are without question harming innovation.

    As has been repeatedly uncovered over so many years now, they are out only for themselves.

    America and its 350 Million citizens be damned.

    There is only one solution.

    Only one way to defang the FAANG.

    Break. Them. Up.