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Voting in local, state and national elections could be viewed as a rudimentary form of social media, by which voters share their views and preferences via selection of a candidate or party platform. The distance between this “old school” social media and its multi-headed modern form has shrunk thanks to the advent of electronic voting machines and online voting. But, as always, with the implementation of new technologies comes new risks. Even though some progress has been made to shore up and protect the voting process from cybersecurity threats, there are plenty of ways government data breaches can “rock the vote” outside of the voting booth.

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USPTO-seal-300x300The President’s January 23, 2017, executive memorandum implemented a federal hiring freeze. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is one of those agencies affected by the President’s memorandum. While such a hiring freeze may not have an immediate impact on patent application pendency and/or examination quality, due to the relatively high attrition rate of the patent examining corps, the examination timeline and quality may be affected in the future. In particular, technologies having greater upfront value, including internet-based technologies and platforms, and clients relying on patent portfolios for valuation will be most acutely impacted. As illustrated below, the pendency backlog may inevitably increase and the examination quality suffer.

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In a December post titled “Freedom to Yelp: Congress Curbs ToS Overreach,” we discussed the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016, then just awaiting President Obama’s signature to become law. That happened, and the law goes into effect March 14. In their recent client alert on the new federal law, colleagues Michael Heuga, Amy Pierce and Catherine Meyer delve into the details, examining what exactly the law prohibits, what is still permitted, and what possible penalties await businesses found to be in violation.

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Social-media-first-amendment-300x300When the President of the United States, every governor, every member of Congress, and—as Justice Kagan remarked—virtually every under-30 and 35 year-old in the country has a Twitter account, it’s time for social media to be recognized as a pervasive and protectable form of speech. On Monday, during oral arguments in Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court of the United States seemed to emphatically agree. The case concerns a North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from “accessing” any “commercial social networking websites” whose membership also includes minors. In particular, SCOTUS made several statements on the nature of social media:

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The Internet of Things does not have to be Skynet to threaten us humans; perhaps tired of defeating carbon-based Go and chess masters, Google’s DeepMind pits its AI agents against each other; exactly when will AR and VR be fully embraced; and more …

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Last month, a New York trial court dismissed a complaint against Donald J. Trump and others brought by political consultant and commentator Cheryl Jacobus that alleged, in part, a defamation claim (libel) based on tweets by Trump. While the case is notable because it involves Trump and his penchant for tweeting personal attacks, it is also notable because it provides additional guidance on how the courts are handling defamation claims based on statements made via Twitter (and other social media networks).

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Did you know that your devices are following you and talking amongst themselves? Creepy, right? From ordering products from your smartphone that you added to your shopping cart on your laptop’s browser to streaming a movie from your smartphone that you didn’t finish watching on your desktop, our online and mobile devices have integrated themselves into our lives and taken liberties that may not be apparent to us.

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CBP_DHSlogo-300x246At the end of 2016, the U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) implemented a rule to include questions concerning social media accounts of travelers to the United States during the Visa Waiver Program screening process (VWP). The VWP permits citizens of 38 countries to visit the United States for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. ESTA is the automated system that determines the eligibility of travelers entering through the VWP. Now, in addition to collecting biographical information from a traveler, CBP will request social media identifiers of travelers during the ESTA application process for vetting purposes. Continue reading →

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ChipotleBecause celebrities closely guard their names and likenesses, lawsuits claiming high-dollar amounts for violations of those rights are not unusual. But a lawsuit for $2.2 billion dollars for a non-celebrity claiming a restaurant improperly co-opted her photograph for an ad campaign? That’s rare. At year’s end, just before the expiration of the statute of limitations, a Sacramento woman named Leah Caldwell sued Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill, the company’s photographer, and Chipotle’s chief executive officer in just such a suit. In doing so, Caldwell showed that you don’t have to be famous to think your face is worth a billion dollars. But is it?

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HuluAs more and more content that has traditionally only been offered over-the-air, through cable, or on satellite becomes increasingly available via the internet, television content providers must take care in scrutinizing their existing broadcasting agreements to avoid potential conflicts with their current distribution affiliates. Although the internet offers content creators the ability to distribute media directly to their audiences, television networks will face a host of issues if they are not careful in structuring their approach to this new media paradigm.

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