The Switchboard: Patent war goes nuclear as major competitors sue Google

November 1, 2013

(Department of Defense)

Published every weekday, The Switchboard highlights the five tech stories you need to read.

Patent war goes nuclear: Microsoft, Apple-owned “Rockstar” sues Google. A portfolio of patents formerly owned by the bankrupt Nortel was sold to a consortium owned by Microsoft, Apple, RIM, Ericsson, and Sony in 2011. "Patent insiders knew that the Nortel portfolio was the patent equivalent of a nuclear stockpile: dangerous in the wrong hands, and a bit scary even if held by a 'responsible' party," Ars Technica writes. "That stockpile was finally used for what pretty much everyone suspected it would be used for—launching an all-out patent attack on Google and Android."

Comcast is donating heavily to defeat the mayor who is bringing gigabit fiber to Seattle. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's has been working to expand broadband service in Seattle, a project that threatens the interests of the incumbent broadband provider Comcast. Our own Andrea Peterson reports that Comcast has "invested heavily in defeating McGinn in Tuesday's mayoral election. While Comcast denies there is any connection between McGinn's broadband policies and their donations, the company has given thousands of dollars to PACs that have, in turn, given heavily to anti-McGinn groups."

Senate panel backs NSA data collection. "The Senate Intelligence Committee advanced legislation Thursday that would tweak but not end the National Security Agency's program to collect records on all U.S. phone calls," according to the Hill. "The move sets up a showdown with the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will soon take up legislation to end the controversial program."

At last! The FAA has seen the light on in-flight electronics. "Airline passengers fed up with having to switch off their electronic devices during takeoff and landing will be able to use them freely at all times on a flight, not just at cruising altitudes," reports the Switch's Brian Fung. "The FAA has announced that airlines will soon be receiving guidance on how to implement the new rules, which still require devices to be in airplane mode at all times."

Amid NSA spying revelations, tech leaders call for new restraints on agency. "Mounting revelations about the extent of NSA surveillance have alarmed technology leaders in recent days, driving a renewed push for significant legislative action from an industry that long tried to stay above the fray in Washington," the Post's Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima write. "After months of merely calling for the government to be more transparent about its surveillance requests, tech leaders have begun demanding substantive new restraints on how the National Security Agency collects and uses the vast quantities of information it scoops up around the globe, much of it from the data streams of U.S. companies."

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Andrea Peterson | October 31, 2013