by Josh Mendelsohn

Josh Mendelsohn's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the the-engine-edition dept

When a group of entrepreneurs, early-stage investors, and others in the startup community started Engine Advocacy almost a year ago, we set out to help policy makers understand startups while also bringing awareness of the importance of the policymaking process back to startups. Techdirt was a guiding source.

This week, I offer my perspective gained in Washington as an Engine steering committee member learning about the sausage-making process. I've grown to respect and reject elements of lawmaking and bring that back to the startup world.

A recurring theme any reader of Techdirt can't miss is the horrible exploitation of the patent system. What started with Patent Trolls is beginning to turn the tech community on itself. But the courts are largely to blame as well, either through miseducation and ignorance or opportunism. This week, when the USPTO announced the introduction of third-party commenting, they presented some potential opportunities for startups to formally engage in the fight against overbroad patents. It will be important experiment.

Despite this step in the right direction, recent "reform" that moved the country to a first-to-file system requires startups to be vigilant and show proof of prior work or suggest why a patent should not be granted when overbroad. This significant burden has been painted as reform but it will provide cover to those who have been granted vague or overbroad protections.

On the same theme, the Techdirt team has another good post recapping the decision against RIM that assessed $147.2m in damages for accused infringement on a questionable patent. The cycle continues.

AT&T's ambiguity this week around plans to charge users an additional fee for accessing Apple's Facetime product over 3G/4G was also disappointing given the potential chilling effect it poses. Many users are already paying outsized fees for data plans that aren't keeping pace with technological development. Should carriers follow this path, they will limit user choice, establish further precedent for restricting content, and effectively double-charge users.

Further, Engine is generally concerned about the allocation and use of the nation's spectrum resources and committed to making sure innovative wireless technologies are not limited by poor policymaking. Engine recently co-hosted an event with Stanford's Center on Internet and Society and Gigaom emphasizing the importance of innovation and opportunity on unlicensed spectrum.

Finally, on a lighter note, Techdirt reported this week on three separate and equally laughable Olympic flaps all related to "brand" protection. These range from the brand police to the restaurant forced to change its name. Nevermind the White House's call for Americans to throw Olympics-related parties. The absurdity of the IOC has been an amusing theme this spring, though awash in the sea of brand-related marketing hype surrounding the events. But then again, this is an IOC that requires 3000 chauffeured cars for the events -- and each driver needs to be in black hat.

Snarkiness aside, Engine has been up to some pretty neat work. We'll shortly be issuing a policy briefing book to help educate congressional candidates as well as a detailed report helping demonstrate startups' massive impact on the U.S. economy. If you'd like to stay informed, sign up here. If your company would like to join our 300+ members, you can do so here. There's no cost to become a member, but signing up helps us understand where our membership is located and invite your company to relevant events -- say a district meeting with your member of Congress.

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