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High-Tech Law & Litigation Blog

Uber Settles with the FTC, Tying Itself to the Agency For Up To 20 Years

On August 15, 2017, three years after it faced backlash from the media, Uber has settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations that despite its representations, the company failed to secure customer data and failed to monitor employee access to that data, thus engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices affecting commerce in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a). We cannot explain why it took three years for the decision to be issued. Regardless, the decision is a reminder that parties must accurately describe their security programs, must take reasonable and appropriate steps to protect personal information, and must test the efficacy of their privacy programs.

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The House Passed the First-Ever Autonomous Vehicles Bill, “SELF DRIVE Act” — Cruising Down the Road to the Senate

On September 6, 2017, the House took a major step toward enacting what could become the first-ever federal law to regulate autonomous vehicles. The Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution Act or the “SELF DRIVE Act” (H.R. 3388), introduced earlier by the House on July 25, 2017, and approved unanimously by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 27, 2017, was passed by voice vote immediately after the lawmakers came back from their summer recess. This fast-tracking shows that this bill is uncontroversial and bipartisan, which bodes well for autonomous vehicles and automakers and tech companies.

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  • 07
  • September
  • 2017

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European Court of Justice Says the General Court Cannot Take Shortcuts in 18-Year-Old Antitrust Case

On September 6, 2017, the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) reversed a 2014 General Court decision upholding the European Commission’s €1.06 billion judgment against chip maker Intel. But the ECJ reversed the General Court, concluding that it failed to take into account some of the argument put forth by Intel. The ECJ effectively held that the General Court had taken an inappropriate shortcut and has ordered the General Court to reconsider Intel’s As-Efficient competitor (“AEC”) arguments. While the ECJ was concerned that all arguments were not addressed, none of the European institutions involved in this matter appear to be concerned about a process that is now about to leave its adolescence, going into its eighteenth year. One wonders about the efficacy of an antitrust process that requires eighteen years to adjudicate.

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  • 30
  • August
  • 2017

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Qualcomm and Apple Further Their Dispute About Whether Certain Patents Are, In Fact, Disputed

A series of motions in the ongoing battle between tech blue chips Qualcomm and Apple about whether the Southern District of California (or any federal court) has jurisdiction to hear additional patents-in-suit in Apple’s amended complaint raises the question of exactly what actions a patent holder must undertake to create an actual case or controversy for a patent-law declaratory judgment action.

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  • 10
  • August
  • 2017

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Public Fora in for a Change? Social Media and Data Analytics Are Changing Constitutional Free Speech Law, and Businesses May Feel the Effects

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a North Carolina law barring registered sex offenders from accessing social media websites on the grounds that the law violated the First Amendment. Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1738 (2017). In so holding, the Court recognized the importance of social media as a tool for public expression. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy observed that social media websites “provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizens to make his or her voice heard”—“allow[ing] a person with an Internet connection to ‘become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.’” Id. at 1737 (quoting Reno v. Am. Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844, 870 (1997)).

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Congress Supports the Deployment of Autonomous Vehicles ("AVs") — First-Ever Federal Laws Being Developed

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on July 27, 2017, approved seven committee bills including H.R. 3388, Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution Act or the “SELF DRIVE Act” by a unanimous vote of 54-0. https://energycommerce.house.gov/news-center/press-releases/54-0 According to the Committee, this legislation will prioritize consumer safety, reduce traffic-related fatalities, and clarify federal and state government roles around emerging automated vehicle technologies. This will be the first-ever legislation to be voted by the House that concerns AVs.

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  • 01
  • August
  • 2017

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Avoiding Accidental Contracts By Email: A Tech-Centric Point of View

In today’s fast-paced business environment, email is indispensable.  But its speed and informality can lead to the inadvertent use of contract-forming language, resulting in unintended binding agreements. This problem is exacerbated by legal regimes that favor the recognition of contracts formed by email, with the intent of facilitating electronic commerce and online shopping. There are, however, several steps that companies can take to reduce their exposure to the danger of accidental contracts, which are offered below.

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  • 27
  • July
  • 2017

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Disrupting the Disrupters: Shareholder Activism @ Tech Companies – Part II

In Part I, we described the current shareholder activism environment and the significant and consistent focus of shareholder activists on tech companies of all sizes. We also described how your company’s structural defenses, including your organizational documents and shelf “poison pill,” can be optimized to address an activist situation. In Part II, we now describe three advance preparation steps that we believe are essential for tech companies in the current activist environment.

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  • 25
  • July
  • 2017

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Disrupting the Disrupters: Shareholder Activism @ Tech Companies, Part I

The technology sector is obsessed with disruption. And for good reason: so-called disruptive technologies have completely revolutionized industries ranging from transportation and hospitality to finance and advanced genomics. But publicly traded technology companies around the world have also become the subject of a very different type of disruption: shareholder activism.

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  • 20
  • July
  • 2017

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Qualcomm, Feeling the Squeeze as Apple and iPhone Manufacturers Cut Off Royalties, Moves to the Offensive

A recent suit by mobile phone chips giant Qualcomm shows the debilitating business effects that can follow from a government antitrust investigation.

The Federal Trade Commission filed suit in January 2017 against Qualcomm for alleged antitrust violations, which set off a cascade of litigation against the company, the world’s largest maker of baseband chips. A suit by Apple quickly followed the FTC’s complaint, and dozens of civil cases making similar allegations came after that. As part of its litigation strategy, Apple started withholding royalties for Qualcomm’s technology, and instructed its iPhone manufacturers to do the same.

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  • 18
  • July
  • 2017

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After Bristol-Myers Squibb, What’s the Prescription for Personal Jurisdiction in Online Defamation Cases?

For companies suffering from symptoms commonly associated with being forced to defend themselves in remote and inhospitable locales, the recently-concluded U.S. Supreme Court term brought some much-needed relief. In addition to its blockbuster patent-venue ruling in TC Heartland, the Court issued a major decision limiting nonresident plaintiffs’ ability to invoke loose specific jurisdiction standards to force out-of-state defendants to litigate claims that have no substantial connection to the forum. See Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., No. 16-466, 2017 WL 215687 (U.S. June 19, 2017). In doing so, the Court rejected plaintiffs’ reliance on a company’s general business and promotional contacts with the forum state when those contacts are insufficiently related to the claims asserted.

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  • 13
  • July
  • 2017

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Everything is Bigger in Texas, Except Proportional E-Discovery

If you have ever visited Texas, you know that everything there is “bigger,” including the belt buckles and bar-b-que. Apparently, there is an exception for e-discovery. As hi-tech litigators are well aware, the December 1, 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) amended Rule 26(b)(1) to require that discovery be “proportional to the needs of the case.” Recently, the Texas Supreme Court emphasized that e-discovery under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (“TRCP”) aligns with — and does not surpass — these federal proportionality requirements.

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Welcome to V&E's High-Tech Law & Litigation Blog

Welcome to the High-Tech Law and Litigation Blog, which offers updates and insights about important cases and other legal developments affecting the all-important technology sector of the economy. We are Vinson & Elkins attorneys who practice in different areas but have one fundamental thing in common: clients and personal interests that intersect with the technology industry. Our goal is to provide a resource for those seeking to stay abreast of the law shaping – and sometimes shaped by – the rapidly changing world of technology.

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Contributors

Jason A. Levine

Jason A. Levine Partner

Jennifer C. Chen

Jennifer C. Chen Partner

Devika Kornbacher

Devika Kornbacher Partner

Danny Tobey

Danny Tobey Partner

William R. Vigdor

William R. Vigdor Partner

Marc A. Fuller

Marc A. Fuller Counsel

John Andren

John Andren Associate

Thomas W. Bohnett

Thomas W. Bohnett Associate

Megan Coker

Megan Coker Associate

Caroline Colpoys

Caroline Colpoys

Trey Hebert

Trey Hebert Associate

Keeney, Jeremy C.

Jeremy C. Keeney Associate

Howard Lithaw Lim Associate

Kimberly R. McCoy

Kimberly R. McCoy Senior Associate

Elizabeth Krabill McIntyre

Elizabeth Krabill McIntyre Senior Associate

David C. Smith

David C. Smith Senior Associate

Janice Ta

Janice Ta Senior Associate

Margaret D. Terwey

Margaret Dunlay Terwey Associate

Ryan B. Will

Ryan Will Associate

Siho (Scott) Yoo

Siho (Scott) Yoo Senior Associate