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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

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Brian Fung

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Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 08:30 AM ET, 03/30/2011

The Circuit: Patent reform in the House, Amazon Cloud Player draws ire, BP loses spill victims’ personal data

LEADING THE DAY: Patent reform hits the House on Wednesday afternoon. The Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet will hold a hearing to discuss the House version of the America Invents Act. The bill, sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), is similar to the one that passed the Senate earlier this month. In a Politico editorial, Smith said a move to a first-to-file system and the addition of a review measure that allows third parties to submit information about patent applications will modernize and streamline the U.S. patent system.

The reform measures in both bills have the backing of the administration and several notable companies such as General Electric and DuPont. But some have said that provisions in the bill will hurt small inventors, particularly language that appears to weaken a grace period in which applicants can test their inventions.

Amazon Cloud Player raises legal questions: Amazon’s new streaming music service has raised questions among music studios, who were reportedly only informed of the company’s plans a week before the service launched. Sony spokeswoman Liz Young told Reuters that the music company hopes to reach a licensing deal with Amazon and will be “keeping all of our legal options open.” Amazon told Ars Technica that it does not need a license to store music in its Cloud Drive. “The functionality of saving MP3s to Cloud Drive is the same as if a customer were to save their music to an external hard drive or even iTunes,” Amazon spokesperson Cat Griffin told Ars.

BP loses laptop with personal data: BP lost a laptop that contained the private information of 13,000 victims of the spill cause by its Deep Horizon rig on the Gulf Coast. The company sent out a letter to those whose data were lost, saying the laptop included a spreadsheet containing the claimants’ names, Social Security numbers, phone numbers and addresses. The AP reported that there is no evidence the information has been misused. BP has said no claimants will have to refile claims. The laptop was lost during “routine business travel” and contained the information of claimants who filed with the company before it handed over claims processing to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

Microsoft readying mobile payments: Bloomberg reported Wednesday morning that Microsoft is preparing to put Near Field Communication technology in its Windows Phone 7. That news follows reports that Google is pushing an initiative to spread the mobile payment technology across the county and Apple is said to be including the technology in a future version of the iPhone.

Google to start using smarter ads: Taking cues from its Priority Inbox feature, Google will begin tailoring ads for Gmail users based on actions they take in their mail accounts. For example, if a user gets a lot of ads about skiing but marks them all as spam, Gmail won’t push skiing ads. The company said it is trying to cut down on bad ads and will take advantage of user cues to do so. It also mentioned offering local coupons but did not elaborate. In a help article describing the new ads, Google was careful to note that the system is automated and that no person will be reading e-mails to obtain this information. Users can opt-out of the new ad system.

Google also launched a chat bot for users of its Google Talk program. The bot, called Talk Guru, can answer specifically phrased queries about the weather, arithmetic problems, some language translations and more.

Meg Whitman joins Kleiner Perkins: Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman will join Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a strategic adviser. The firm announced Tuesday that she will advise entrepreneurs and help evaluate new digital investments. Whitman recently lost her bid for the governor’s office in California.

By  |  08:30 AM ET, 03/30/2011

Tags:  IP, Amazon, Privacy, Microsoft, Google, Apple

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