Artificial Intelligence Will Benefit Us Immensely—If We Don’t Get in the Way

IRobotIdeas are becoming more expensive. Larger teams of scientists are taking longer and spending more to discover less. A common theory for these diminishing returns compares exploring the laws of nature to exploring land. Pioneers chart the most accessible areas. Later generations must grope their way across remote and forbidding terrain to find anything new; their expeditions need more preparation, more equipment, and more support. One of the many marks of increasing strain is the advancing age at which Nobel laureates reach their prize-winning breakthroughs. It appears that young scientists need more time to master the growing body of knowledge that lies between them and the frontier of a field.

Scientific discovery drives technological innovation, which in turn drives productivity growth. According to a recent study, the average researcher in the 1930s generated more productivity growth than do 20 researchers today. American spending on research and development has grown ten-fold since the 1950s. American productivity growth, meanwhile, has shrunk. Slowing productivity growth and slowing economic growth go hand in hand. Continue reading “Artificial Intelligence Will Benefit Us Immensely—If We Don’t Get in the Way”

What Did We Learn From the Supreme Court Oral Argument in Apple v. Pepper?

supreme courtWe’ve blogged previously about the Supreme Court’s biggest antitrust case of the October Term 2018, Apple v. Pepper. The case asks the Court to decide whether iPhone users who buy apps from Apple’s App Store may sue Apple for alleged antitrust violations, or whether only third-party app developers may bring such claims. The answer turns on whether and how the Court applies the rule announced in Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, which holds that only the direct purchaser of a good or service may sue an allegedly abusive monopolist for damages.

The Court heard oral argument in the case on Monday morning. Apple is represented by Daniel Wall of Latham & Watkins. He argues that the Illinois Brick rule is dispositive here for Apple because the plaintiffs’ antitrust claim hinges on precisely the sort of “pass through” theory of harm that Illinois Brick prohibits. Continue reading “What Did We Learn From the Supreme Court Oral Argument in Apple v. Pepper?”

Addressing the Custody Conundrum: A Cooperative Federal/State Effort to Build Market Infrastructure and Regulatory Clarity Around Digital Assets

Alter_Daniel_web2_8784879218361Featured Expert Contributor, Legal & Regulatory Challenges for Digital Assets

By Daniel S. Alter, a Shareholder in the New York, NY office of Murphy & McGonigle P.C.

Would-be custodians for cryptocurrencies and other digital assets seem very bullish these days.  Mike Belshe, CEO of BitGo, Inc.—a leading developer of cryptocurrency security products that was recently approved by South Dakota to operate a state-chartered trust company—opined that “[c]ustody has been the missing piece of cryptocurrency market infrastructure and this gap has kept institutional investors out of the market.”

Market observers have echoed this view.  A contributor to Forbes.com wrote, “The introduction of custodianship is expected to herald the entry of institutional capital into the industry, acting as the missing link investors and fund managers have been seeking for entrance into the crypto market.”

Not so fast. Continue reading “Addressing the Custody Conundrum: A Cooperative Federal/State Effort to Build Market Infrastructure and Regulatory Clarity Around Digital Assets”

Regulatory and Legal Barriers to Tech-Company Market Entry, Success, Stubbornly Persist

FTC_Man_Controlling_TradeLast month at The Atlantic Festival, FTC Commissioner Slaughter and former FTC Chair Ohlhausen participated in an enlightening interview on technology regulation. When discussing how the United States approaches regulation compared to other nations, Ohlhausen said the U.S. has such an “enormous presence in the tech space” due in part to America’s “lighter touch” on regulation.

Slaughter questioned whether regulation stifled innovation to the extent Ohlhausen inferred, noting that Silicon Valley is located in a state with a particularly challenging regulatory and legal environments.

Commissioner Slaughter’s comments, and the perspective they represent, merit serious reflection and analysis, especially with the FTC holding an ongoing series of Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century. Stakeholders participating in and commenting on those hearings should remind the Commission of regulation’s impact on innovation. Evidence abounds of that connection. Continue reading “Regulatory and Legal Barriers to Tech-Company Market Entry, Success, Stubbornly Persist”

Expressions Hair Design Speech Case Back on Track after Detour to NY State Court

creditcardFor more than 40 years, merchants have sought the right to impose surcharges on customers who use credit cards when making purchases. They prefer customers to pay with cash because when a customer pays with a credit card, the merchant must pay a transaction fee to the credit-card issuer. To encourage cash transactions, many merchants would like to express their pricing in a way that conveys to customers that credit purchases lead to higher prices, but a number of States closely regulate how merchants may express that viewpoint.

A First Amendment challenge to such regulations reached the U.S. Supreme Court two terms ago. The Court granted merchants a preliminary victory in Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, ruling that a New York pricing statute did, in fact, regulate speech and overturning a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decision that reached the opposite conclusion. Continue reading Expressions Hair Design Speech Case Back on Track after Detour to NY State Court”

EPA’s Return to Rigorous Cost-Benefit Analysis Continues with Impending Methane-Rule Revision

EPA-LogoThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to propose changes to the regulation of mercury emissions that can recalibrate the balance between the costs of such controls and the benefits they confer. This action would be consistent with other administrative agency moves, which we have discussed recently here, to elevate the level and quality of economic analysis that past and future regulations must undergo.

The proposal EPA recently sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget characterizes the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule for Power Plants (“MATS rule”) as a needlessly expensive mandate and recommends that its costs and benefits should be recalculated. The MATS rule was aimed at reducing toxic power-plant emissions, but utilities have spent an estimated $9.6 billion a year to comply with the new standards, while the mercury emissions reductions have led to a comparatively small estimated annual benefit of $4 million to $6 million. When signing the Energy Independence Executive Order, the President singled out MATS, stating, “Perhaps no single regulation threatens our miners, energy workers, and companies more than this crushing attack on American industry.” Continue reading “EPA’s Return to Rigorous Cost-Benefit Analysis Continues with Impending Methane-Rule Revision”

Lessons from FTC’s Loss in, and Subsequent Abandonment of, DirecTV Advertising Case

Featured Expert Contributor, Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission

06633 - Royall, M. Sean ( Dallas )M. Sean Royall, a Partner in the Dallas, TX office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, with Richard H. Cunningham, a Partner, and Brett S. Rosenthal and Emily Riff, Associates, with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

Click here for a PDF version of this post.

The FTC recently suffered a significant setback in a closely watched advertising practices case against DirecTV.  Specifically, on August 16, 2018, Judge Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted judgment in favor of DirecTV on the majority of the claims at the close of the FTC’s case in chief—including all claims relating to DirecTV’s disclosures in its advertising—before DirecTV began to present its own case in defense. And then yesterday, the FTC agreed to dismiss the remainder of its case voluntarily with prejudice, fully ending the enforcement action.

Judge Gilliam’s decision reflects an emphatic rejection of both the disclosure standards sought by the FTC and the agency’s proposed approach to monetary equitable remedies.  The court’s analysis should be of interest to companies that sell services on a subscription basis or that offer a variety of price, service, and promotional options. Continue reading “Lessons from FTC’s Loss in, and Subsequent Abandonment of, DirecTV Advertising Case”