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Tech News Today for May 30, 2017

Tech News for Tuesday May 30, 2017

Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, its VP of technology and the former head of its self-driving car effort. The decision to fire the engineer/executive is a part of the ongoing fallout of a lawsuit filed by Levandowski's previous employer, Google, against Uber. Google's self-driving car division, Waymo, has accused Levandowski in its suit of stealing about 14,000 documents worth of self-driving car trade secrets and taking them to Uber. Uber has denied the allegations and says it's developed its autonomous vehicle tech independently. Levandowski, meanwhile, is pleading the fifth. Levandowski lead Uber's self-driving car team before moving to an operations role in April. According to the New York Times, Uber fired Levandowski becauase he refused to help Uber hand over any evidence or testify in Uber's defense. Read more at nytimes.com.

Andy Rubin, the father of Android, unveiled his next effort in the mobile phone world: The Essential Phone, with premium specs that rival the Samsung Galaxy S8, a titanium body and ceramic back, pure Android Nougat, a near bezel-less screen design, and magnetic pins on the back for powering connected accessories that can add functionality to the device. For example, the phone releases with a 360 camera module that snaps into place to draw power, with the data sent back to the phone wirelessly. The Essential Phone is currently up for preorder for $699. Read more at theverge.com.

Andy Rubin also unveiled “an entirely new type of product” with Essential Home, a hockey-puck shaped home control device similar in scope to Google Home and the Amazon Echo, for controlling music, setting timers, controlling smart home hardware, and answering voice queries. However, one key difference is that it runs most of its data crunching on the device itself, appealing to the privacy concious. It includes a round display on the top for visual feedback, and it’s running Essential’s Ambient OS. Essential Home is expected to ship later this summer. Read more at theverge.com.

Sheryl Sanderberg -- lobbyist? In 2014, Facebook's famed Chief Operating Officer personally lobbied the Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, both offering praise and threatening to take Facebook's investment dollars away from Ireland if the company didn't get its way. Facebook's European headquarters are in Dublin, Ireland. The Irish Independent got ahold of emails between Enda Kenny and Sandberg thanks to a public records request. In one conversation, as Facebook had just expanded its Dublin office and headcount, Sandberg said that Facebook believes it's important to have a single European regulator, rather than different tax regulations in different countries. She wrote: “Without this, the risk is that companies will revisit their investment strategies for the EU market.” Some of what Sandberg had pushed for has come to fruition, such as "one stop shop” provisions in the EU’s new privacy laws that will go into affect next year. So it seems that her tactics were at least partially successful. Read more at independent.ie.

Researchers at Check Point have discovered a new type of malware for Android called Judy that has been distributed on the Google Play store in light of Google’s official protection mechanism, Bouncer. A number of apps created by South Korean developer Kiniwiki, all with Judy in the title, acted as the delivery mechanism for the malware. The challenge for Google is that the malicious code wasn’t in the games themselves. Once downloaded, the games would connect to a remote server to then serve back the malware that would open up a hidden browser in the background and connect to and click on served up ads for generating revenue. Read more at bbc.com.

In a big win for consumers, the US Supreme Court has ruled 8 to 0 that patent protections end once a company sells a product to an end user, and thus can't keep an end user from repairing an item themselves if they so choose. The case at stake in all this was Impression Products vs. Lexmark, the printer company. Lexmark was blocking others from refilling old printer cartridges with ink and reselling them at a low price, including a 25 person company from West Virginia called Impression Products that was built on the resale of refurbished printer cartridges. Lexmark argued that its patents on its printer cartridges meant that only it could sell or refill its cartridges. The Supreme Court said no, they don't. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his decision that: "extending the patent rights beyond the first sale would clog the channels of commerce, with little benefit from the extra control that the patentees retain." After loosing the case, Lexmark's lawyer said that the price of ink cartridges will likely go up as printer companies "learn how to deal with the new environment.” This may sound like an obscure fight over ink cartridges, but the implications of this ruling were major. Had Lexmark won, the decision would have changed the way aftermarket sales work in all kinds of industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry, and the aftermarket for medical device parts, computer parts and even car parts. Read more at bloomberg.com.

Nathan Olivarez-Giles and Jason Howell are joined today by Alison Griswold to discuss a piece she wrote declaring an end to the era of VC-subsidized meals in Silicon Valley. Tech News Today streams live weekdays at 4PM Pacific, 7PM Eastern at twit.tv/live. You can subscribe to the show and get it on-demand at twit.tv/tnt.

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