U.S. Chamber Legal Reform Summit Addresses Threats to Innovation

On October 25, 2017, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform held its annual day-long legal reform summit.  It addressed numerous aspects of the legal regime of lawsuits and liabilities facing American businesses.  Many of the panels and speeches touched on technology, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT).  ILR President Lisa Rickard set the stage, discussing lawsuit abuses and emerging “no-injury” suits that can plague innovators. (video of her comments can be found here)

Wiley Rein Partner Megan Brown participated in a morning panel on legal hurdles facing emerging technologies.  On the panel were Allison Drutchas of General Motors, Scott Taylor of Merck & Co. Inc, and Lisa Sotto of Hunton & Williams. The group discussed the current legal landscape – both domestically and internationally – and barriers that may stand in the way of new technologies from artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things, which will facilitate vastly more data collection and use.

A key issue facing emerging technologies is data protection and divergent U.S. and global regulatory trends, including the risk of lawsuits.  Individual nations develop their own laws for protecting data, for example in the United States data protection laws vary across sectors, industries, and data type. Indeed, in the United States alone, 52 states and territories have separate data breach notification requirements. As panelists noted, data flow does not typically recognize borders, making these laws burdensome.  An example of this trend is the spread of data localization laws – that is, laws requiring data to be stored and maintained within a country’s physical borders.  The patchwork of international, state, and sector-specific laws make it difficult to fully deploy and benefit from innovative technologies.

The panelists also discussed who is responsible for developing a data protection framework within the United States.  Although the panelists did not reach a consensus, they offered examples of effective models.  With autonomous vehicles, Congress is working on legislation in partnership with manufacturers to update decades-old laws that don’t match today’s technologies.  Whether that model will be adopted in other industries is unclear, but it highlights a developing legal framework that can help facilitate the deployment of new technologies.

Other speakers at the summit hailed from major companies like Honeywell, IBM, and Pfizer, as well as senior current and former government officials, and offered insights that could be useful for companies in the IoT space.

  • United States Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein noted that private-public partnerships will be important to protect new technologies, with one important aspect being the investigation and prosecution of cyber criminals who operate outside of U.S. borders but target American businesses and enterprises.

  • Former New York City Mayor Giuliani spoke on crisis management and preparedness, emphasizing “relentless preparation” which should resonate with companies considering what they would do if (or when) they have a cyber incident.

  • Neomi J. Rao, Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey addressed trends in the “Administrative State” and how the current Administration has impacted the federal regulatory environment.

Wiley Rein attorney Michael Diakiwski also attended the event, which touched on numerous areas of the firm’s practice.  Wiley Rein supports numerous Chamber activities, including partnering on a recent report on IoT security, The IoT Revolution and our Digital Security, which can be found here.

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