Digital Policy Roundup: 2013 Brings Focus on Digital Trade, House Cmte. to Explore Privacy and SIIA Submits Patent Comments

Digital Trade Become Key Areas of Focus in 2013

Reflecting the importance of digital products & services in international trade, there have been several key developments over the past couple weeks.

First, on January 8th, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) announced the launch of two investigations into the role of digital trade in the U.S. and global economies. Requested by Senate Finance Committee in 2012, the investigations are intended to explore how digital trade has increased rapidly in recent years and is an increasingly important activity within the global economy, and to explore the challenges that policymakers are facing, balancing the need to keep digital trade open while protecting and securing data and privacy. In conjunction with the investigations, the USITC will hold a hearing and in early March and has been tasked with producing two reports for Congress describing the nature, opportunities and challenges of digital trade, and how it can be harnessed for U.S. economic growth broadly and by various sectors.

And on January 15th, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) formally notified Congress that it intends to begin negotiations for a plurilateral services agreement within the next 90 days. In its notification, USTR outlines several key objectives, including negotiation of a deal that covers new Internet-based services. The negotiations are expected to include discussions on permitting the free flow of data across borders, as it has in the context of the negotiations for a Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Key House Committee to Explore Privacy/Data Security

Last week, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton indicated that he will soon release a list of priority issues and initial hearings for the Committee, with the theme being “a smaller, modernized government that is geared for the innovation era — where obsolete programs are shed for fresh approaches that foster growth and advancement in all sectors of our economy.”

On privacy, new Commerce Subcommittee Chair Lee Terry (R-NE) indicated last week that the Subcommittee would soon return to the online privacy and data security debates that took place under former Chair Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) in 2012, and that the focus on data security will likely use her Secure DATA Act as a “starting point” but will make modifications. More broadly on privacy issues, Chairman Terry will also use the hearings and discussions of the last two years and build from there, and he is considering the creation of an online-privacy-focused task force comprised of members of the Subcommittee.

SIIA Supports USPTO’s Proposed Improvements to Patent Ownership Rules

Last week, SIIA filed comments with the USPTO strongly supporting the Office’s proposed new requirements for recording real-party-in-interest (RPI) information in patent cases. In its comments, SIIA explained that under the present system it is too easy for RPIs to hide behind legal fictions, making it very difficult to determine what patents a company owns. A requirement by the USPTO that make available complete, current and accurate RPI information will improve the efficiencies of licensing, transparency of the patent system, litigation and patent prosecution.

SIIA Kicks off President’s Second Term with Ed-Tech Ball

SIIA helped host the NCTET Bytes & Books Inaugural Ball featuring an award to Rep. George Miller (CA), ranking Democrat on the House Education & Workforce Committee, and remarks by U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter. SIIA’s Mark Schneiderman is president of NCTET (National Coalition for Technology in Education & Training) delivered remarks to the 400+ education, public policy and high-tech leaders in attendance. Distinguished guests included NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, US DoED Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle, and Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy Roberto Rodriguez. Event supporters included the National Education Association, PBS, SMART Technologies, Pearson, Pearson Foundation and, of course, SIIA. The event celebrated the Inauguration of President Obama, the election of the 113th Congress, awards to six distinguished education leaders, and the role of technology to improve education.

David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPubPolicy.

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