Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
January 25, 2015

January 23, 2015

Weekly Wrapup: SOTU, Net Neutrality and Patents

It was a short but busy week and your Weekly Wrapup includes posts on the State of the Union address, net neutrality hearings and patents.

  • President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address and in advance of the speech, Technocrat had a roundup of a few stories that at least touched upon social media and either White House strategy or lawmakers.
  • Among the issues that weren’t mentioned in Tuesday’ night’s address was patents, and  a couple proponents of legislation targeting abusive patent litigation said they were disappointedMichelle K. Lee, deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, later said it wasn’t a reflection of any change in priorities.
  • Lawmakers on the Hill held net neutrality hearings and Technocrat had a post on interesting quotes from a couple House Republicans showing their current approach to the issue.
  • Oh, and Valencia Martin-Wallace has been promoted to a newly-created job at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — deputy commissioner for patent quality.

Weekend Reads: Internet Archive, Bitcoin Exchange and Pinterest

If you’re planning this weekend to grab some coffee, throw your feet on the table and catch up on some reads you missed during this busy, busy week, here are a few stories to get you started:

  • The New Yorker has a piece on the Internet Archive, a San Francisco nonprofit, and its Wayback Machine: “The Wayback Machine is a Web archive, a collection of old Web pages; it is, in fact, the Web archive.”
  • The New York Times has a story on Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’s bid to create the “first regulated Bitcoin exchange for American customers — what they are calling the Nasdaq of Bitcoin.”
  • The Wall Street Journal has a story about Pinterest’s efforts to attract more male users: “The male experience on Pinterest has been similar to visiting a women’s department store. Now Pinterest is trying to make it easier for them to find the men’s section.”

Quote of the Day: Obama and Cybersecurity

Thursday’s livestream of YouTube stars interviewing President Barack Obama wasn’t focused on tech policy, with questions ranging from marijuana policy to bullying. But the YouTubers did ask a couple questions dealing with the Sony hack and Chinese Internet censorship.

In case you missed it, among Obama’s response to a question regarding the Sony hack: “In fact the hacking against Sony  – which we believe was done by North Korea – it wasn’t even that sophisticated. But it just goes to show how vulnerable we are.”


January 22, 2015

USPTO Creates New Deputy Commissioner for Patent Quality Post

Valencia Martin-Wallace has been promoted to a newly-created job at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — deputy commissioner for patent quality.

A few notes about Martin-Wallace:

  • Most recent gig: assistant deputy commissioner for patent operations.
  • Years worked at USPTO: more than two decades.
  • Education: Bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Howard University, law degree from George Washington University School of Law and certificate in advanced public administration from Syracuse University’s public administration school.

So, what’s the new job? If it’s not obvious from the title, it involves managing patent quality work.

Martin-Wallace’s bio says she’s “responsible for sustaining the high quality of the USPTO’s patent examination processes and products by implementing and maintaining a comprehensive quality management system.”

Her boss, USPTO Deputy Director Michelle K. Lee (who’s been nominated to be director and is currently the most senior USPTO official since the director post has long been vacant.) said at The Brookings Institution on Thursday that the new position would “focus exclusively on patent quality efforts at the PTO.”

“I wanted one person whose one and only job it is to think day in and day out on how to improve patent quality at the PTO,” Lee said.

As an aside, if you’ll recall, Technocrat had a post earlier this week about a couple proponents of legislation targeting abusive patent litigation saying they were disappointed that there was no mention of such legislation in President Barack Obama‘s State of the Union speech.

Answering a reporter’s question about Obama not mentioning patent legislation in his speech, Lee said it wasn’t an indication that the issue was a lesser priority for the administration.

“For patents to get two mentions two years in a row would be fantastic,” but the President has “obviously many competing demands” on his time,” she said, adding that it doesn’t reflect a change in priorities.

BlackBerry Calls for ‘Content/Application Neutrality’

When talking about of the scope of net neutrality rules, debate in Washington has focused on issues like wireless broadband and interconnection. On Wednesday, BlackBerry CEO John Chen wrote in a blog post that rules should also cover content and application providers.

“Therefore, any net neutrality legislation must take a holistic view of the entire playing field, addressing both carrier neutrality and content/application neutrality,” he writes in the post, which notes that it’s adapted from a letter sent to leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committees.

Full story

January 21, 2015

Shimkus: ‘We Need to Get This Monkey Off Our Back’

In part one of today’s double-dose of net neutrality hearings, issues discussed ranged from wireless to “specialized services.” A couple of the interesting comments from the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing and afterwards highlighted GOP thinking on net neutrality and draft bill that was released by Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce Science Transportation Committees last week.

“I’m a paid prioritization guy,” said Illinois Republican John Shimkus, arguing money has to be made if billions of dollars are going to be invested every year-and-a-half and that his position has been to ensure expansion of Internet infrastructure.

“But that was then, this is now,” he said.  “We’re in a new world order where I think we have now looked at the debate and said… we need to get this monkey off our back.”

Some certainty and rules were needed, he said.

Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., answering a question from a reporter  about whether he was worried that some conservatives wouldn’t back any type of Internet regulation, said:

They’ll have to make their own decisions, but I think in the face of what the FCC’s going to do is far worse and not legally sustainable and will have a negative effect on the market that… they’ll see this as a better course of action with certainty. And we found support among a lot of those groups who like we didn’t think that the Internet’s broken and needed top-down government control. We can offer up something different and better here that enshrines the principals people care about without this forbearance of all these laws.

Walden, who released the draft bill last week with full panel chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., later said:  “If it’s gonna be done, it’s going to be done. Right? The FCC’s gonna do it. We’ve got to do it right.”

Goodlatte, Engine ‘Disappointed’ SOTU Didn’t Mention Patents

President Barack Obama waves to the gallery as he arrives in the House chamber in the U.S. Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama waves to the gallery as he arrives in the House chamber in the U.S. Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Remember last year’s State of the Union? President Barack Obama’s speech called for patent legislation that would let businesses “stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.” Patents weren’t mentioned in Tuesday night’s address, and at least a couple proponents of legislation targeting abusive patent litigation pointed that out in their responses to the speech.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., who sponsored legislation that passed the House last Congress, said in his written statement: “I am disappointed the President failed to mention the importance of passing legislation to stop abusive patent litigation.”

Engine (which represents startups and which been calling for legislation), in its response to the speech similarly noted disappointment that the issue wasn’t mentioned: “With a change in Senate leadership, many of us in the startup community are optimistic about significant movement on patent reform. So we were disappointed to see the President avoid the topic entirely in this year’s speech. While we’re confident that he remains committed to reform, we hope to see him more aggressively pushing for legislation in the weeks to come.”

Obama’s Tech Talk in SOTU

President Barack Obama’s call for lawmakers to pass legislation to address “cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information” in his State of the Union address wasn’t a surprise given his announcements last week in advance of Tuesday night’s speech, but he also mentioned net neutrality, surveillance and space in his speech. Below are some of his science and tech-related mentions:

  • “I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”
  • “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.”
  • “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.”
  • “So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.”
  • “I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain — and make sure to Instagram it.”

January 20, 2015

SOTU & Social Media

In advance of Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, here are a few stories that at least touch upon social media and either White House strategy or lawmakers.

  • Yahoo News’ Olivier Knox writes about the White House’s strategy for targeting four different audiences it sees: people actually on the House floor and watching on television, people streaming the speech online, people both watching on television and keeping tabs on social media commentary, and people who won’t watch or reach the speech.

“So while declining TV numbers have forced the White House to chase audiences across the social media landscape, the result has been to give the speech a longer life online,” he writes.

  • The New York Times’ Michael D. Shear reports: “The Obama administration has revamped its digital communications strategy in an attempt to reach new audiences for the State of the Union speech – a classic old-media event – and sidestep the skeptical filter often applied by White House reporters.”
  • CQ Roll Call’s David Hawkings writes: “This year there are more defensible rationales than ever for members of Congress to miss the State of the Union address. But there doesn’t seem to be any groundswell of absenteeism in the works.”

Among the “defensible rationales” for skipping out that Hawkings mentions: social media allowing lawmakers to just live-tweet commentary from home. But he writes that “as many lawmakers as ever” are gearing up to endure being “marooned under the House chamber’s hot TV lights and the crush in Statuary Hall’s ‘spin room.’” Among his reasons for why that would be: “It’s a rare opportunity for even the most obscure backbencher to be glimpsed live on 13 television networks simultaneously — an ego bump even for those aware the audience is likely to slip below last year’s 33.3 million, the smallest number since Clinton’s final address in 2000.”

The Week Ahead: Net Neutrality, Cybersecurity and Patents

The State of the Union and congressional hearings on net neutrality are on tap this week, as well as a number of other events on cybersecurity, patents and more.



  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s deputy director, and Obama’s nominee to head the patent office, Michelle K. Lee, is slated to talk at The Brookings Institution.

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