Are Hoverboards Hovering Above the Law?

hoverboardBy Denise Kim

Hoverboard, glider, electric skateboard, or skywalker—the technology goes by many different names. But many in the public and the news use the term hoverboard. For those who are unfamiliar with the technology, a hoverboard is a self-balancing scooter or a two-wheeled motorized gadget that normally costs between $300-500. To operate a hoverboard, the owner leans forward to move ahead. The owner leans back on the two pressure sensitive footpads to brake or reverse. Hoverboards have become a new staple in the 21st Century. Hoverboards have also raised safety concerns.

One safety concern is that hoverboards can randomly catch on fire. Major airlines including American, Delta, United and Southwest banned hoverboards from being checked in or carried on the plane. Toward the end of 2015, these safety concerns caused major panic across the U.S. and the rest of the world as many bought hoverboards for loved ones for Christmas. The airline companies cited concerns over the lithium ion batteries (which the Federal Aviation Administration regulates as hazardous materials) as the reason behind this universal ban. Continue reading

If At First You Don’t Succeed (at passing a cybersecurity intelligence sharing law), Try, Try Again.

UntitledBy Brennen Johnson

Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate just passed CISA (the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act”) on Tuesday, October 27. If the White House does not veto it, CISA will allow tech companies to share internet traffic information with the government without fear of liability for the disclosure of private or sensitive data. Not only would the law potentially allow companies to violate their own privacy statements with users, but also it would allow them to hide the fact that they are sharing information with the government.

So what is CISA, where did it come from, and why does it matter? This is not the first time that lawmakers have brought this type of information-sharing scheme before Congress. Back in 2011, lawmakers introduced CISPA (the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act”) in an attempt to help prevent cyber attacks. The basic premise behind the bill was that quickly sharing information about threats and vulnerabilities could help prevent attacks. The House of Representatives passed CISPA, but it failed in the Senate, due to a lack of confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards. The White House even proclaimed that it would veto the bill should it be passed. CISPA was reintroduced by the House in 2013, where it again failed to pass the Senate. Continue reading

Washington State Starts a Battle With Patent Trolls

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 3.43.28 PMBy Robin Hammond

Can a state use consumer protection laws to punish patent trolls?

The Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee is considering penalizing patent trolling. The committee recently discussed a proposed ‘patent troll prevention act’ in a work session on October 2, 2014. The bill in its current form would create a new consumer protection law to fine patent infringement in bad faith. Violators could face a fine of up to $25,000.

The bill outlines a number of factors that a court may consider in determining whether an assertion of patent infringement has been made in bad faith. For example, bad faith may be shown when a person asserting the claim: should have known the assertion was meritless, provides inadequate information in the initial demand letter, or fails to provide basic patent information on request. A court may also consider the reasonableness of the asserting party’s diligence in comparing the ‘infringing’ activity and the patent, and the reasonableness of proposed licensing fees or timeframes. The bill also lists factors which indicate good faith, including diligence, timeliness, and reasonableness. It also names three types of patent holders that are presumed to act in good faith: an investor in the patent, an original assignee, or a university. Continue reading