How is the ITC Like USB and Potatoes?

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With the Apple–Qualcomm litigation heating up on a number of fronts, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time writing and talking about it and the ITC. Here’s a quick media roundup.

In the Race to 5G, Monopoly Considered Harmful: In Morning Consult, I explain how an ITC exclusion order in Qualcomm’s 337-1065 investigation against Apple iPhones could harm cybersecurity, because market dominance in the cell phone chip industry would create a technology monoculture. The situation would be comparable to agricultural monocultures, such as the Irish practice of farming only one variant of potatoes: A single virus or attack could spread across the entire infrastructure. For potatoes this resulted in the Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1800s; for cell phones this could create botnets, surveillance opportunities, critical infrastructure damage, or more.

CDT Tech Talk: I’m on this podcast talking about the importance of technical standards, the rules of computer communication that enable everything from Wi-Fi to the Internet to USB devices. Standards are central to the information economy today, but as I explain in the podcast, patents and patent licensing strategies can interfere with the ability of standards to take off and succeed. That means that federal officials who deal with patents, such as the ITC, need to worry not just about what their actions mean for patent owners but what they mean for standards-driven innovation in general: A tilt in favor of patent owners could end up unbalancing the information technology ecosystem and slowing down progress.

Economic Protectionism Versus National Security: Following up on my explanation of why cell phone cybersecurity is at risk in the Apple–Qualcomm dispute, my piece in Lawfare considers how the ITC’s decisionmaking process could signal the Trump administration’s views of the importance of national security. The administration has repeatedly acted in the name of national security to protect American technological infrastructure, and particularly 5G and mobile communications architectures. Many have questioned whether the real motives are not national security but rather economic protectionism, picking winners and losers in the innovation market. If the ITC ignores the severe national security concerns that ALJ Pender found and goes ahead with an exclusion order, one may legitimately worry that the administration lacks real understanding of or concern for national security, and previous appeals to security may have been just a cover.

Image credit: jmak2