The June 2022 Developers Alliance US Policy Update
Congress Still at an Impasse on Competition Legislation
While some in Congress have made every effort to appear busy at work on the American Innovation and Choice Act (S. 2992), by most accounts the bill is stalled. Since being introduced and clearing a committee hurdle earlier this year, Democratic and Republican Senators have started to raise red flags surrounding the bill. On the right, Republicans, already skeptical of giving Democrats a win this Congress, are concerned that the bill may harm free speech online. Some Democrats see the bill as stifling innovation. The one bipartisan concern is that an increasing number of Senators from both parties see the bill as an unfinished product. Whether the bill is able to garner enough support to receive a vote in this Congress remains to be seen. Its odds of doing so are decreasing with each passing week as the midterm election approaches.
As we approach the midway point of the summer, it’s time to take stock of the legislation we’ve been tracking in Congress. In an era of unprecedented techlash, most of the legislation on our radar would harm developers and the products they are creating. While our industry is focused on specific legislation, the context surrounding these bills is worth mentioning. First, it is an election year, meaning there are just a few weeks left in the Congressional calendar before lawmakers depart for home to campaign. Additionally, these bills will have to compete for floor time in the House and Senate as Congress grapples with other pressing issues like gun legislation and reproductive rights.
On Thursday, June 23, the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce passed the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (H.R. 8152), a key privacy bill that seeks to protect consumers without stifling innovation. The bill does not preempt the entire patchwork of state privacy laws, meaning developers will have to navigate a perilous landscape where certain data practices might be legal in one state and prohibited in another. What’s more, because the bill includes a private right of action, individuals could file frivolous lawsuits which would harm the industry. The bill must now be considered by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee before it can receive a vote in the House. While there does appear to be support for the bill in the House, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has raised red flags, expressing concerns with the bill’s enforcement mechanisms.
“We applaud the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee for convening this important hearing. The American Data Privacy and Protection Act is a good first step in helping consumers and app developers better navigate a very confusing privacy landscape. Lawmakers must now work to improve the legislation by ensuring that it preempts the existing patchwork of state laws, and protects app developers from frivolous and harmful lawsuits. We appreciate the work of Congressional leaders on this critical issue, and look forward to working together to strengthen consumer protection and the app economy.”
Developers Alliance Joins Letter Supporting PTAB
Both the House of Representatives and Senate held important patent hearings the week of June 20. The House’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, as well as the Senate’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held hearings to examine the Patent Trial and Appeal Board on its 10-year anniversary, and its role in spurring innovation. The hearings fell along predictable lines, with some companies calling PTAB a “patent death squad,” and others championing it. The Developers Alliance, along with Engine, the Consumer Technology Association, and ACT | The App Association sent a letter to leaders of both committees reiterating that while PTAB serves a valuable role, it can be improved.
“Ensuring meaningful access to Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings promotes patent quality and benefits the nation’s startups and small business innovators. As you reflect on the past ten years of experience with the PTAB, we urge you to remember the important role the Board plays in curbing abuse of the patent system and mitigating the harm of low-quality patents…We commend you for convening today’s hearing, and we hope you will explore how to restore and improve the PTAB system to ensure it can deliver on the promise of better quality and protecting small innovators across the U.S. from invalid patents and abuse of the system.”