The Switchboard: Obama calls for patent reform in State of the Union

January 29

(Mark Lennihan / AP)

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

President calls for patent reform in SOTU. "President Obama repeated his calls for reform patent law during his State of the Union address Tuesday," the Hill reports. "He called on Congress to 'pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.' Critics of the current patent law system say it allows for 'patent trolls' to threaten or bring frivolous lawsuits in the hopes of getting defendants to settle."

New York ponders “BitLicense” for virtual currency. "Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of financial services for the state of New York, emphasized that regulators are taking an open view of the potential and pitfalls of currencies like Bitcoin, which are attracting endless speculation and hype, but also serious investments like the $25 million that VC’s recently poured into Coinbase," GigaOm reports. "Lawsky also noted that New York regulators are considering a 'BitLicense' specially tailored for overseeing virtual currencies."

GOP senators to feds: Leave the Internet alone. "Federal regulations threaten to strangle the growth of the Internet economy, Republican lawmakers warned Tuesday," according to the Hill. "Speaking at the 10th annual State of the Net policy conference, Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the Senate Commerce Committee’s top ranking Republican and co-chairman of the Congressional Internet Caucus, challenged federal officials to stop meddling online."

Court: Google infringed patents, must pay 1.36 percent of AdWords revenue. "Vringo is a tiny company that purchased some patents from Lycos, an old search engine, in 2011 and then used those patents to sue Google," according to Ars Technica. "Today, Vringo got the payout it was looking for: a 1.36 percent running royalty on US-based revenue from AdWords, Google's flagship program. US District Judge Raymond Jackson had already ruled last week (PDF) that the AdWords program, which was tweaked by Google after the Vringo verdict, wasn't 'colorably different' from the old infringing program."

The airwaves are getting so crowded, TV channels have started doubling up. "The wireless lobby is partnering with two Los Angeles-based television stations in a pilot project that could, in the long run, lead to better cellular service and more efficient TV operations," our own Brian Fung writes. "KLCS, a public broadcasting station, and KJLA, a local commercial station, are about to try something known as channel-sharing — packing their two signals into the same chunk of airwaves while attempting to avoid interfering with each other."

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Brian Fung · January 28