Tech-Enhanced Sports: Sign-Stealing and the Need for a New Frontier

On November 12, 2019, sports publication “The Athletic” launched a featured story about the Houston Astros electronically stealing signs being relayed from the opposing catcher to the pitcher. The stolen signs were then relayed to the Astros dugout where a staff member would bang a trashcan in a sequence corresponding to different pitches, i.e. one time for a fastball; two times for a curveball; etc... The alleged system helped propel the Houston franchise to winning the World Series in 2017 and to another appearance in 2019 against another franchise mired in their own sign-stealing scandal, the Boston Red Sox.

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Streaming Wars

With the upcoming release of NBC’s new streaming service, Peacock, America is once again seemingly asked to choose favorites in the increasingly exhausting “streaming wars.”

Typically, competition among major corporations is seen as a good thing for the American economy, as it spurs innovation, which ultimately benefits the consumer. Along those lines, few can argue with the premise that competition has completely overhauled and dramatically improved the average individual’s access to entertainment. Only two generations ago, most American households did not own televisions, and those that did were limited to some combination of PBS, Fox, ABC, NBC, and/or CBS. The first video rental store did not exist until the late 1970s (when renting a movie also required renting a VCR). Access to entertainment was again overhauled beginning when Blockbuster charged a man named Reed Hastings a $40 late fee, which annoyed him so much that he decided to start a mail-order movie rental company called Netflix.

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Casenote: Return Mail, Inc. v. United States Postal Service et al.

In 2011, Congress enacted the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) that created the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Patent Board), which reviews challenges brought by a “person” regarding the validity of a patent post-issuance. The Patent Board reviews such challenges through one of three adjudicatory administrative review proceedings that were established by the AIA: (1) “inter partes review,” (2) “post-grant review,” and (3) “covered-business-method (CBM) review.” The Board then either confirms or cancels the patent claims. The question before the Court was whether a federal agency is a “person” capable of initiating AIA review proceedings. The Court held that it is not. 

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F.T.C. Issues Record-Setting Civil Fine Against Google For Mining Your Child’s Data

On August 30, 2019, The New York Times reported on the Federal Trade Commission’s (“F.T.C.”) recent vote to issue a record-setting fine against Google. Google will potentially be on the hook to pay a fine anywhere between $150 million to $200 million to settle recent accusations against the global tech giant. What’s the fine for? Google is once again accused of data mining, this time it's mining your children’s data on YouTube.

This whopping potential fine of $200 million far surpasses the previous record-setting fine the F.T.C. recently issued against the popular music video app, TikTok. The New York Times reported the FTC issued the  $5.7 million to penalize the app’s child privacy violations.

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From Your Phone to Your Home: Facebook introduces Portal TV for smart video calls

On September 18, 2019, The Verge published an article concerning Facebook’s launching of the newest addition to its technology campaign: Portal TV. For $149, users can pre-order the device that is set to begin shipping on November 5th and have access to a substantial number of features, including video calls through Messenger and WhatsApp, Alexa built-in, Story Time for children, and automatic panning and zooming. The announcement of Portal TV is accompanied by the complementary devices of the 10-inch Portal and 8-inch Portal Mini. Set-up requires only an HDMI cord and a Facebook login. The device is also compatible with other streaming services such as Amazon Prime, ShowTime, and CBS All Access. According to an early review, the positives of the device are camera tracking during calls, turning a TV into a smart display, and integrating Alexa. Meanwhile, the negatives are that it has blurry motion at a distance, unimproved camera quality, and the filters do not scale up well.

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Opportunity Zone Investing

In December 2017, President Trump passed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017. Senators Cory Booker (Democrat, New Jersey) and Tim Scott (Republican, South Carolina) co-sponsored this bipartisan legislation, which was championed by Sean Parker (the former President of Facebook) and Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase). This Act created a generous tax incentive for investors to deploy capital into distressed communities in the United States called Opportunity Zones. Opportunity Zones consist of 8,762 low-income census tracts covering 12% of the United States and 35 million people. They are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Capital inflows into these census tracts, produced via the tax incentives, are expected to produce meaningful social benefits such as job creation, reduction in unemployment, increase in median income, and reduction in poverty rate.

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JBTL News Roundup: Week of October 29, 2018

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Opinions and Analysis: The Big Hack: Updating National Security for the 21st Century

Editor’s Note:  Both Apple and Amazon have apparently done in-house investigations and found no evidence of a hack; they have subsequently demanded a retraction of the story from Bloomberg.  Bloomberg has stood by its reporting and refused to retract its article.

On October 4th, 2018, Bloomberg published an alarming article alleging that the U.S. Government had fallen victim to a large-scale hack at the hands of Chinese operatives.  Their goal? Long-term access to treasured corporate secrets and government networks which house some of the nation’s most sensitive information. In 2015, Amazon became aware of an anomaly with a commonly used motherboard while vetting a Silicon Valley startup for an impending acquisition.  The anomaly came in the form of a chip, roughly the size of a grain of rice, which was attached to the motherboard after manufacturing.  

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JBTL News Roundup: Week of October 15, 2018

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JBTL News Roundup: Week of October 8, 2018

  • Staff editor Kevin Redden has flagged some great analysis from The Washington Post regarding Google+’s data privacy scandal. A vulnerability in the code animating Google+ left the data of 500 million users vulnerable to hacking. This article comes at the story from a unique angle, discussing the idea of digital “junk” that users create and then forget about. (Google kept the bug secret for months before effectively shutting down Google+.)
  • Reuters reports that the proposed $69 billion merger between CVS and mega-insurer Aetna has won antitrust approval from the Department of Justice. This merger will afford the merged corporation significant control over health care costs for customers–time will tell if those costs go up, down, or stay static.

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JBTL News Roundup: Week of October 1, 2018

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JBTL News Roundup: Week of September 24, 2018

  • The Verge reports that Sirius XM has acquired music streaming service Pandora Radio for $3.5 million. The buyout comes as a relief to Pandora, who lost $200 million in the first half of 2018 after struggling against competitors like Spotify and Apple Music.
  • TechCrunch notes that Snapchat is rolling out a feature allowing users to take pictures of products and then purchase those products on Amazon. Snap has declined to disclose the financial details of the partnership with Amazon.

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JBTL News Roundup: Week of September 17, 2018

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JBTL News Roundup: Week of September 3, 2018

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JBTL News Roundup: Week of August 27, 2018

  • President Trump asserted today that Google’s algorithm discriminates against conservative news media, and says the issue “will be addressed.” Larry Kudlow, an economic adviser to the President, has said that the White House will follow up.
  • The Washington Post reports that Disney parks employees, after a year of tense talks, have struck a deal with their employer for a $15 per hour wage.

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JBTL News Roundup: Week of August 20, 2018

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Price of unfair use: Oracle granted new trial on damages against Google

What’s the license price of 11,000 lines of Javascript SE code? Google and the tech community are about to find out.

The Federal Circuit on Tuesday reversed a jury verdict and denial of judgment as a matter of law in Oracle’s copyright infringement suit against Google for use of Oracle’s Javascript SE API (application programming interface). Oracle America, Inc. v. Google LLC, 2018 WL 1473875. The court remanded the case to the district court for a new trial solely on the damages Google will pay Oracle in what will be the third trial in this case.

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Does Patent Trolling Actually Put Innovation at Risk?

Many practitioners are vaguely acquainted with the concept of patent trolls, but are unfamiliar with its nuances. On a superficial level, one might recognize that the term “patent troll” is a pejorative moniker used to refer to a patentee that does not manufacture a consumer product. This name is typically traded for a more neutral alternative: non-practicing entities (NPEs). Rather than make, use, or sell new products and technologies, trolls obtain essentially defunct patents to force third parties to purchase licenses. They accomplish this by waiting for an industry to utilize a patented technology and then force the alleged infringers to either pay up or litigate. Patent trolls can be divided into three categories: (1) those that purchase other companies’ controversial patents to assert them against an industry; (2) those that originally sold products but have either completely or largely closed their operations to focus on patent licensing; and (3) those that act as agents to help assert patents on behalf of patent owners for a fee. Despite these variations, the business model of the average “troll” is largely uniform: (a) accuse a company of infringing a patent and offer a license for a royalty on sales; and (b) sue the target company if it does not agree to a license.

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NFL Player’s Lawsuit Against League Likely To Go Three and Out: Union Faces Uphill Battle in Convincing Court To Set Aside Labor Arbitration Award

On Friday, the National Football League Players Association (“NFLPA”) filed an Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order or Preliminary Injunction on behalf of Ezekiel Elliott – an NFL running back – to prevent the NFL from enforcing a six-game suspension it imposed on Elliott for violating its domestic violence policy. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell executed the six-game suspension after NFL investigators found that Elliott harmed his accuser, Tiffany Thompson.

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Feeling the Effects: The Rise in the Unauthorized Practice of Public Adjusting

It is well established that most homeowners purchase property insurance for peace of mind or because it is required, and not necessarily because the homeowner believes a catastrophe will happen to them. Given this, many homeowners are unfamiliar with their policy provisions. When a disaster occurs, the homeowners’ policy plays an integral role in helping the homeowner rebuild. The policyholder will have several options while navigating through the claims process. While some policyholders will choose to work with the insurance company directly or rely on a contractor to negotiate the claim, others will turn to a public insurance adjuster. Although there is not a right or wrong way to move through the claims process, problems can arise when an unlicensed or untrained person negotiates a claim settlement with the insurance company.

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