May 4, 2007 8:47 AM PDT
Week in review: The revolution will be posted
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"Granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress and may, in the case of patents combining previously known elements, deprive prior inventions of their value or utility," the court wrote in a majority opinion penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Technology companies were quick to praise the decision. Several Silicon Valley heavyweights, including Intel and Cisco Systems, had submitted supporting briefs urging the Supreme Court to revise the lower-court ruling.
The ruling prompted Vonage to ask for a new trial in an ongoing dispute with Verizon Communications. In March, a jury found that Vonage had infringed three patents owned by Verizon, the second-largest phone company in the United States. Vonage's appeal of the verdict is scheduled for a hearing on June 25.
One day after the ruling, the struggling Internet phone company asked the U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit to put its pending appeals process on hold and send the case back to the lower court for a new trial. However, a U.S. appeals court denied Vonage's request for a retrial of a patent case it lost against Verizon earlier this year.
On the Hill
It's been at least four years since politicians pledged to enact an antispyware law, but it still hasn't happened. Now they're trying again. A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee once again approved a bill that proposes up to five years in prison for malicious spyware-related activities.
Similar versions passed the House by overwhelming margins in the last two congressional sessions but died before a Senate vote occurred. The bill's sponsors have said their effort differs from competing antispyware measures--backed by a different committee--because it is designed to combat the scourge without stifling software development or imposing heavy-handed regulations.
In other Senate action, a pair of overlapping proposals aimed at reining in personal data use by the government and private sector earned approval from a key committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved an amended version of the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act, which was ultimately bundled with the Notification of Risk to Personal Data Act.
The measures represent just two of several competing bills that both chambers of Congress have been trying to pass in recent years. They reflect continuing public outcry over a series of high-profile breaches at universities, corporations and federal agencies: among the more recent episodes was a cyberintrusion that compromised more than 45 million customer records at TJX Companies. A number of states already have laws addressing such incidents on their books, but politicians have said a uniform nationwide standard is necessary.
Meanwhile, politicians said the U.S. government must do more to counteract propagandizing by al-Qaida and radical terrorist groups on the Internet. Leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs said they're troubled that extremists are increasingly flocking to the Web to recruit, organize, conduct online courses, raise funds and plan attacks in a manner that's cheaper and speedier than ever before.
The use of the Internet by terrorist groups is hardly a new phenomenon. But according to the hearing's witnesses, the number of Web sites--many of them mirroring information published by leaders on core, authoritative sites--has multiplied from a handful in 2000 to many thousands today, with more added each week.
Also of note
Award-winning Editor in Chief Harry McCracken of PC World resigned over disagreements with the magazine's publisher regarding stories critical of advertisers, according to sources...Microsoft plans to extend its mainstream development tooling to Silverlight, its Flash challenger, and add support for dynamic languages...Apple released a QuickTime update to fix a security flaw that was used to breach a MacBook Pro at a recent security conference.
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