A federal district court in Wisconsin struck down the first law in the country requiring augmented-reality-game makers to go through a complicated permit-application process before their apps could be used in county parks.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 13 will implement an electronic filing system, making all new documents available to the public for free. In another attempt to advance its use of technology, SCOTUS updated its website.

Approximately 40% of the world’s population is now active on social media.

Researchers who tried to identify people suffering from depression by examining their Instagram photos had a 70% success rate.

DoNotPay, a chatbot that has helped drivers to overturn 375,000 parking tickets so far, is expanding to help consumers tackle nearly one thousand other legal issues without the help of an attorney.

The number of Internet-of-Things-related companies is fast multiplying. This Forbes piece lists the IoT categories that are attracting the most interest from entrepreneurs and investors.

Companies that allow hiring managers to check out job candidates’ social media accounts could be exposing themselves to legal trouble.

Beware requests to connect on social media from people you don’t actually know. A known hacker group used a fake LinkedIn profile to connect with people working at certain companies and trick them into installing malware on their company computers.

Using blockchain, companies organized as Decentralized Autonomous Organizations do away with the need for senior executives and managers by allowing stakeholders to vote on every decision the company faces—including the fate of employees who underperform.

A survey of 2,000 Britons about their pet social-media-peeves showed that bragging about your kids might hurt your popularity online. Read the full list of cyber activities that most people consider Facebook faux pas.

Dealmakers who responded to a recent Morrison & Foerster survey predicted that the market for M&A transactions in the technology sector will be even more robust in 2017 than it was in 2015 and 2016—years in which acquirers announced deals collectively valued at more than $1 trillion.

Now a report by MoFo’s M&A team leaders and 451 Research shows that Internet of Things-related transactions contributed significantly to the tech M&A market’s impressive numbers over the last few years. For one thing, IoT-related deals announced since 2013 have been valued at $147.3 billion.

For discussions of other IoT-related issues, check out Morrison & Foerster’s IoT Resource Center.

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BigBrotherEye-GettyImages-149355675-600pxIf your company collects information regarding consumers though Internet-connected devices, you will want to take note of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recent privacy-related settlement (brought in conjunction with the New Jersey Attorney General) with smart TV manufacturer Vizio, Inc. The settlement is significant for four reasons:

  • The FTC reinforces the position it has taken in other actions that the collection and use of information in a way that would surprise the consumer requires just-in-time notice and choice in order to avoid a charge of deception and/or unfairness under Section 5 of the FTC Act.
  • The FTC takes the position that television viewing activity constitutes sensitive data. This marks a departure from its approach of limiting sensitive data to information that, for example, can facilitate identity theft, precisely locate an individual, is collected online from young children or relates to matters generally considered delicate (such as health information).
  • The settlement includes a payment of $1.5 million to the FTC (as well as payment of civil penalties to New Jersey), but the legal basis for the FTC payment is not stated. This could suggest that the FTC will more aggressively seek to obtain injunctive monetary relief in Section 5 cases.
  • Acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen explicitly noted in a concurring statement her skepticism regarding both the allegation that TV viewing data is “sensitive” and that the FTC’s complaint adequately established that the practices at issue constitute “substantial injury” under the unfairness prong of Section 5.

Leaving aside what the chairwoman’s concurrence may portend for future enforcement efforts, the FTC again seems to be using allegedly bad facts about privacy practices to push the envelope of its authority. Accordingly, with the Internet of Things boom fueling a dramatic increase in the number of Internet-connected devices, companies that either collect information via such devices or make use of such collected information should consider the implications of this enforcement action.

Continue Reading Watch Out: The Federal Trade Commission Continues to Watch the (Alleged) Watchers

3D illustration of conveyor belt

Donald Trump’s successful road to the White House was fueled by heated rhetoric against free trade deals and U.S. companies engaged in offshore outsourcing. Underpinning his slogan “Make America Great Again” was a premise that millions of jobs lost to other countries should and could return to the United States.

The president’s ambitious goals include the creation of 25 million new jobs over 10 years. Central to the plan is adjusting trade policies—either scrapping them altogether or negotiating new ones more beneficial to American workers. So, too, it would seem, are policies aimed at discouraging companies from outsourcing operations abroad where labor is cheaper.

During the campaign, President Trump called out some of America’s best-known companies for their reliance on foreign labor. He has kept up the rhetoric since being elected. In December, when he touted his success in persuading air conditioner maker Carrier Corp. to keep 800 jobs in Indiana, Trump signaled a policy of retribution to prevent further outsourcing: “Companies are not going to leave the United States any more without consequences,” he said. Continue Reading Tech, Not Trade, Poses Biggest Threat to American Jobs

The Internet of Things is apparently to blame for the Web outage that paralyzed the online world earlier this month.

Justin Timberlake took down his “ballot selfie” from Instagram after Tennessee authorities made clear that it was illegal.

Presumably in order to help facilitate compliance with guidance from regulators in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere, YouTube is making available to video creators an easy-to-use “sponsored content” notification that they can opt to have appear during the first few seconds of their videos.

Will blockchain technology be the next big wave of disruption for the music industry?

With Tinder’s new feature, online daters can be sure their profiles feature the photos most likely to get right-swipes.

When the chief digital officer at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art lost his job, he turned to social media for advice.

The NFL’s new social media policy promises to impose hefty fines on member teams that post videos or animated GIFs of games, or use Facebook Live or Periscope to stream anything in the stadium.

When a Russian tech entrepreneur’s friend died, she used artificial intelligence and his old text messages to create a futuristic memorial.

Employed but curious about new job opportunities? Now you can change your LinkedIn profile to secretly signal to recruiters that you’re in the market for a new gig.

Guess what percentage of Americans one researcher predicts will own a virtual reality headset in 2016?

Could Google Flights be the ticket to finding the best possible fare to your 2016 winter holiday destination?

The California Supreme Court agreed to hear Yelp’s case arguing that requiring the company to remove a one-star review of a law firm “creates a gaping hole” in the immunity that shields internet service providers from suits related to user-generated content.

Images, videos and quoted tweets no longer count toward Twitter’s 140-charter limit.

Google is undertaking cutting-edge efforts to battle online trolls.

Only 28 websites are registered under North Korea’s top level .kp domain.

Chinese law enforcement agencies investigating criminal cases can now secretly request access to personal information posted on social media services.

Back here in the United States, Twitter’s bi-annual transparency report shows that between January and June the platform received 2,520 information requests from U.S. law enforcement agencies.

The Department of Transportation issued a 15-point list of safety expectations for driverless cars.

Relationship Science, a repository of information about influential people and their connections, is opening its database to everyone, a change that could put the company in competition with LinkedIn.

Content marketers need to publish how many articles a week to make a difference?! Sigh.

Building an audience on Snapchat seems pretty arduous, too.

Concerned that your identity may have been stolen in some of the major hacking attacks in the last three years? Take this quiz to learn your minimum level of exposure and what you can do about it.

The five most popular bots on Botlist last week.

The Newspaper Association of America has filed a first-of-its-kind complaint with the FTC over certain ad blocking technologies.

Is it “Internet” or “internet”? The Associated Press is about to change the capitalization rule.

Lots of people criticized Instagram’s new logo, but, according to a design-analysis app, it’s much better than the old logo at doing this.

Twitter has finally realized that people don’t use it to buy things.

Facebook wants to help sell every ad on the web.

A Russian law enforcement agency is investigating controversial groups alleged to have encouraged more than 100 teenage suicides on social media.

A self-proclaimed “badass lawyer” lost a defamation suit against a Twitter account that parodied him.

The Internet of every single thing must be stopped.

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04_21_Apr_SociallyAware_v6_Page_01The latest issue of our Socially Aware newsletter is now available here.

In this issue of Socially Aware, our Burton Award winning guide to the law and business of social media. In this edition, we discuss what a company can do to help protect the likes, followers, views, tweets and shares that constitute its social media “currency”; we review a federal district court opinion refusing to enforce an arbitration clause included in online terms and conditions referenced in a “wet signature” contract; we highlight the potential legal risks associated with terminating an employee for complaining about her salary on social media; we explore the need for standardization and interoperability in the Internet of Things world; we examine the proposed EU-U.S. Privacy Shield’s attempt to satisfy consumers’ privacy concerns, the European Court of Justice’s legal requirements, and companies’ practical considerations; and we take a look at the European Commission’s efforts to harmonize the digital sale of goods and content throughout Europe.

All this—plus an infographic illustrating the growing popularity and implications of ad blocking software.

Read our newsletter.

Internet of things synchronized by smart phone isometric poster vector illustration

In an article published here in January we addressed some of the more significant Internet of Things (IoT) -specific standards and initiatives and emphasized the importance of interoperability as central to the growth and success of the products and services that leverage the IoT.  In this follow-up piece, we provide a detailed update regarding one of the leading efforts around standardization, the Open Connectivity Forum (OCF). We also cover three additional industry standards that have particular potential when used in IoT: Bluetooth Low Energy, Wi-Fi (including 5G) and Blockchain.

“Fragmentation is the Enemy”

On February 19, 2016, the Open Connectivity Forum (OCF), a new standards effort for the IoT, was announced. Led by Intel, Qualcomm, ARRIS, CableLabs, Cisco, Electrolux, GE Digital,  Microsoft and Samsung, the OCF reportedly seeks to merge the current efforts towards standards development in the IoT, uniting the former Open Interconnect Consortium with companies at all levels, and is “dedicated to providing this key interoperability element of an IoT solution.” The initiative hopes to circumvent the expenditure of time and resources in building consensus between multiple standards approaches, accelerating innovation and assisting developers create solutions that map to one open IoT interoperability specification.  Emphasizing this point, Qualcomm recently published on its website that “fragmentation is the enemy of IoT.” The OCF sponsors the IoTivity open source project (covered in Part 1 of this Alert) which includes a reference implementation of the OCF specification licensed under the open source Apache 2.0 license.

OCF Intellectual Property Policy

The Intellectual Property Policy adopted by the OCF shows a high level of attention to detail, thoroughness and nuance. Those considering joining would be well-advised to get some help in understanding how these terms will apply to their specific intellectual property portfolio, products, components and services. We have chosen to take a deeper dive into the intellectual property policy for this standard because the details of the policy reveal a number of areas of focus of the founding members.

While the policy imposes obligations on members as well as their affiliates to grant licenses under copyrights and patents, the scope and cost of those licenses will depend on a number of specifics that will vary depending on the precise contours of the final specifications. Members are required to represent that they are authorized to bind their affiliates to the terms of the policy, including parent and sister companies.

1. Patent Claims Captured. The patent claims captured by the policy are limited in a number of ways:

  • The only claims captured are those that would be necessarily infringed by implementing the mandatory portions of the specifications within the bounds of a tightly defined scope that ties specifically to enabling the compliant portions of products to interoperate, interconnect or communicate.
  • Necessary infringement is defined as there being no “commercially reasonable” non-infringing alternative for this enablement. The policy requires that any transfer of these necessary patent claims to unaffiliated third parties must be subject to the terms and conditions of the policy, and transfer or assignment agreements must explicitly address the fact that the transfer or assignment is subject to existing licenses and obligations imposed by standards bodies such as OCF. Those who practice in the merger and acquisition arena will want to take note of the potential issues for both sellers and acquirers in light of these requirements.

2. Patent License Scope. The license scope is also limited in similarly nuanced ways. The license under the above patent claims extends to only those portions of products and services that implement the protocols, functions, APIs and their adaptation layers, input parameters, data structures, services and firmware descriptors that fall within the mandatory portions of the final specification (including mandatory portions of optional components of the specification). Moreover, the policy goes to great lengths to ensure that, unless the final specification is explicit and describes in detail these items where the description’s sole purpose is to enable interoperability, interconnection or communication, no license will apply. This would seem to place a heavy burden on the developers of the specification taking  this into account in developing the details of the specifications.

3. Opt-Out is not true Opt-Out. Another interesting aspect of the policy is that while the policy allows for members to exclude specified patent claims from the royalty-free license, this opt-out mechanism is constrained. Most importantly, members cannot opt out entirely. The policy imposes a requirement to license those excluded patent claims on reasonable and necessary non-discriminatory terms—again, this applies even if patent claims are excluded in accordance with the opt-out framework. The opt-out mechanism also only can be exercised 4 times in any 60 month period.

4. Copyright and Software. While we have focused on patents here due to the policy’s emphasis on the patent rights granted, the policy also imposes obligations to license copyrights.  The policy only addresses rights under copyright to contributions made by members to the specification itself.  The policy also includes a brief statement permitting members to contribute OCF open source that OCF deems acceptable and non-confidential as well as modifications and additions to such open source software to open source projects.  It is not clear what will be considered “acceptable” and what software will be made non-confidential.  The policy also appears to be limited to the following acknowledgment: members may license their software source code that implements the specification under open source licenses and may make contributions of such source code to open source projects.  No limitations on which open source projects are permitted appear.  This seems odd given that this could result in OCF open source software ending up being contributed to projects that impose license terms that conflict with one another.  It seems that OCF may have decided to defer these issues to the future once it has determined what is “acceptable” and what software OCF itself will make available.

5. Rights on Termination. Termination also raises issues for terminating as well as continuing members. Once members join, they may not terminate the licenses they have previously granted to other members prior to termination with respect to versions of the final specification that existed while they were members or contributions to draft specifications that they made which become part of subsequent versions of the specification after their termination. Continuing members are also required to provide more or less reciprocal grants. Continue Reading The Internet of Things: Interoperability, Industry Standards & Related IP Licensing Approaches (Part 2)

InternetofthingsThe financial impact of the Internet of Things on the global economy will be significantly affected by interoperability. A 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report indicated that, “[on] average, interoperability is necessary to create 40 percent of the potential value that can be generated by the IoT in various settings […] Interoperability is required to unlock more than $4 trillion per year in potential economic impact for IoT use in 2025, out of a total impact of $11.1 trillion across the nine settings that McKinsey analyzed.”

However, at present, there is a lack of consensus between standards organizations and industry stakeholders as to even the most basic technical standards and protocols that apply to how devices communicate. Characterized as a “standards war” between technology groups, companies have competing incentives. While all vendors share an interest in aligned standards that promote IoT development and interoperability, individually some companies seek the perceived competitive and economic advantages of building proprietary systems based on proprietary standards and protocols (or so-called “walled-gardens”).

The lack of a uniform standard that applies across devices and networks means that we lack any universally adopted set of semantics. As a result, without clear definition, opportunities for misunderstandings abound. We start then with the definition of two key concepts: the definition of the Internet of Things or “IoT,” and the definition of interoperability as applied to the Internet of Things.

Internet of Things

The term “Internet of Things” is arguably a misnomer in today’s rapidly changing technical environment. The term has two components, both of which are somewhat misleading: “Internet” and “things.”

The reference to the Internet is misleading because the Internet is not the only networking protocol over which devices communicate. While the Internet is a powerful enabler of the broad adoption of connected devices, the networks and communications protocols that support our connected world are far more diverse and continue to proliferate.

The term “things,” while not limiting in and of itself, is vague at best. In this article, when we refer to “things,” we intend to encompass all of the types of objects that have the ability to connect and communicate, whether those objects be sensors, computers or everyday things. The ability to connect with other objects and communicate data makes the object “smart.”

Continue Reading The Internet of Things: Interoperability, Industry Standards & Related IP Licensing Approaches