I’ve got a new post at Cato summarizing dramatic new testimony in the case (briefly noted here last year) of a laboratory company that got reported to the Federal Trade Commission for data breach — and drawn into a crushingly expensive legal battle — after it declined to buy data security services offered by a company with Homeland Security contracts. The battle has been raging for a while, with the nonprofit Washington, D.C. group Cause of Action representing LabMD and outlets like Mother Jones running coverage unsympathetic to its case.
Regulators wanna regulate, but leaving the search giant alone was the more rational antitrust course [Geoffrey Manne, Truth on the Market]
Last fall the editors of the Vermont Law Review were kind enough to invite me to participate in a discussion on food and product labeling, part of a day-long conference “The Disclosure Debates” with panels on environmental, financial, and campaign disclosure. Other panelists included Christine DeLorme of the Federal Trade Commission, Division of Advertising Practices; Brian Dunkiel, Dunkiel Saunders; George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety; and David Zuckerman, Vermont State Senator and Farmer, Full Moon Farm.
The Federal Trade Commission acting simultaneously as lawmaker, judge, prosecutor, appellate panel, bailiff, clerk of the court, and many other public servants probably up to and including executioner [Gary Lawson via Steven Hayward, Power Line]
And goodbye to an Atlanta-based lab services business [Ed Hudgins, Atlas Business Rights Center] Law-enforcement-for-profit sidelight: according to owner Michael Daugherty, allegations of data insecurity at LabMD emanated from a private firm that held a Homeland Security contract to roam the web sniffing out data privacy gaps at businesses, even as it simultaneously offered those same businesses high-priced services to plug the complained-of gaps.
“Do you really want a regulatory agency designing your iPad?” asks dissenting commissioner Joshua Wright. The Federal Trade Commission considers it an unfair consumer practice for Apple to leave a buying window open for fifteen minutes after password entrance during which further app purchases can be made without keying in the password again; occasionally children have approached an untended tablet and engaged in purchases without asking permission. [Gordon Crovitz, WSJ; Wright dissenting statement]
Is this patent asserter seriously overestimating the persuasive validity of its claims to own the process of scanning a document to email? Or is there a rash of inappropriate resistance by small businesses nationwide? “MPHJ has sent letters to approximately 16,465 small businesses nationwide. … it only received 17 (yes, 17!) licenses. Yet the price of these 17 licenses was thousands of small businesses going through the stress and expense of facing a threat of patent litigation.” MPHJ is said to believe that if a business has more than twenty employees and operates in various fields such as “professional services,” it very likely infringes on its patent and owes a royalty of $1,000-$1,200 per employee. [Julie Samuels, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica, more and related last year on patent asserters in the office scanning field]
“… The FTC regulating it” [Jack Shafer, Reuters]
I was a guest Friday on Fox Business Network’s The Willis Report, with guest host Dennis Kneale, to discuss two antitrust cases in the news: Apple’s vigorous efforts to fight back against a monitor appointed as part of its e-books antitrust case [Roger Parloff/Fortune, Alison Frankel/Reuters], and the FTC’s enforcement action against music teachers for anti-competitive practices. You can watch here.
I’ll save the (highly significant) Apple-vs.-monitor case for another post. The Federal Trade Commission’s enforcement action against music teachers, skillfully told by Kim Strassel in the WSJ, demonstrates what officialdom is willing to do with the legal sledgehammer that it claims to need to take on giant corporations like Apple: it uses that weaponry against the mild-mannered piano teacher next door and her little trade association. In a sane world, when the association said its hortatory statement had never been enforced and it would delete it from now on, the FTC’s enforcers would declare victory and move on to some more important case. That they did not do so here speaks volumes about the zeal, careerism and lack of proportion that add up to runaway government. More: George Leef, Forbes.
We’re previously noted the activities of ArrivalStar and related entities, which have filed numerous suits against enterprises over alleged infringement on vehicle-tracking technology. Now one of its frequent targets, public transit systems, is striking back: the “American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has teamed up with the Public Patent Foundation (PubPat) … [and] have sued to knock out the ArrivalStar patents.” [Joe Mullin, Ars Technica] Also: “F.T.C. Is Said to Plan Inquiry of Frivolous Patent Lawsuits” [New York Times]