The Switchboard: White House announces new measures to fight patent trolls

February 21

Gene Sperling, Director, National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, in Washington, DC on Nov. 5, 2013. (Jeffrey MacMillan )

Obama advisers want to 'crowdsource' patents, call again for new law. "In June, President Barack Obama called for action against patent trolls. Today the White House held a short conference updating what has happened in the arena of patent policy since then and announced new initiatives going forward—including one to 'crowdsource' the review of patents," according to Ars Technica. "'I don't think we felt like we had a choice but to take action on the issue of patent trolls,' said Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling at today's event. 'What we were seeing wasn't a trend upward [in patent threats], it was a hockey stick.'"

D.C. scrutiny likely low for Facebook-WhatsApp merger. "Facebook’s proposed acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp was the center of attention in Silicon Valley on Thursday," according to Politico. "Don’t expect the same buzz in Washington when it comes to regulatory approval. The $19 billion deal, like any other, will need to get sign-off before it is completed, but antitrust experts say there’s little reason to expect D.C.’s competition agencies to overly scrutinize the merger."

Verizon, T-Mobile to testify on wireless competition. "Executives from Verizon and T-Mobile will testify on competition in the wireless market in front of a Senate panel next week," the Hill reports. "Verizon Executive Vice President Randal Milch and T-Mobile Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Thomas Sugrue will appear at a hearing being held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition and Consumer Rights, the Judiciary Committee announced Thursday."

'It’s dead': Kansas municipal Internet ban was 'stabbed, shot, and hanged.' "The Kansas cable lobby's attempt to ban nearly all municipal broadband networks won't be rising from the dead any time soon," Ars Technica reports. "Last month, the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association (KCTA), whose members include Comcast, Cox, Eagle Communications, and Time Warner Cable, proposed a ban on telecommunications, video, and broadband services offered to residents and businesses by municipalities. The bill would also have made it illegal for cities and towns to buy, build, lease, maintain, or operate any facility that helps a private business offer telecommunications, video, or broadband services."

Invasion of the Taxi Snatchers: Uber Leads an Industry's Disruption. "There’s a battle for the future of transportation being waged outside our offices and homes," according to Bloomberg Businessweek. "Uber and a growing collection of well-funded startups, such as the ride-sharing service Lyft, are trying to make getting a taxi as easy as booking a reservation on OpenTable or checking a price on Amazon.com—just another thing you do with your smartphone. Flush with Silicon Valley venture capital, these companies have an even grander ambition: They want to make owning a car completely unnecessary."

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Brian Fung · February 20