Definition of Waters of the United States is Now Totally Confused

TakeActionWebCALL YOUR SENATORS TO STOP WOTUS OVERREACH

 

The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule is now the law of the land for much of the country but not all the country. A 197 page regulation from the EPA and Corps of Engineers that will further regulate practically all waters and land mass in the country went into effect Friday, August 28. However, it will not be enforced in 13 states (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming, and New Mexico) but will be in effect for the remainder of the country. On Thursday, August 27, a federal judge in North Dakota blocked implementation of the WOTUS rule in the 13 states that had filed in his court.

 

In his ruling, Judge Erickson said, “Once the Rule takes effect, the States will lose their sovereignty over intrastate waters that will then be subject to the Clean Water Act.” A dozen farmer, rancher, land owner and business organizations and a total of 31 states have filed various legal actions for relief from the WOTUS rule. One of their primary concerns is the apparent disregard for private property rights. An editorial in the Investor’s Business Daily suggested, “The EPA interpretation would lead to private land owners having to ask permission from the government to do anything. It would give the EPA sweeping control over almost all private land in America.” The EPA, however, responded immediately that the rule would go into effect in the remaining states on Friday.

 

National Grange policy recognizes the importance of protecting all watersheds but opposes any mandate that suggests all watersheds are to meet the same water quality standards. We believe Americans must not sacrifice their property under the guise of environment, climate change, critical habitat, urban sprawl or other initiatives.

 

TAKE ACTION NOW!

 

Contact your two U.S. Senators
Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard
Ask for your Senator’s office
Request your Senator to vote to stop the WOTUS rule

CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE

Federal Appeals Court Makes Disappointing Decision on Patents

On August 13 – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc in the Apple-Samsung patent dispute. The National Grange has closely followed this lawsuit for its impact on Grange members’ access to advanced telecommunications technologies. Last month we filed an Amicus brief urging the court to reconsider the $399 million penalty imposed for alleged design patent infringement covering basic shapes.

The Court’s decision yesterday is a blow to industries and consumers. The decision itself was no more than a paragraph and ignores several industry briefs that were filed in response to the hearing en banc, including one from the Grange. As the law currently stands, a design patent infringement can result in the infringing entity being liable for the total profits earned on the product in which the design is incorporated regardless of the importance of the patented design. This is a far cry from reasonable royalty damages used for utility patents, meaning that an infringer is liable only for damages correlating with the patent(s)’ contribution to the overall product.

As we explained in our blog, the current interpretation of design patent law (Section 289 of the U.S. patent code) opens the door for businesses and individuals to seek outsized settlements for design patents, further incentivizing trolling and patent assertion. The federal court has had several opportunities to update its interpretation of Section 289, but now it’s possible the issue could go before the Supreme Court. Without clarification, design patents could become the new target for trolls and ultimately impact consumers, particularly those in rural areas where access and price for technology is critical.

Spectrum Need

Ed+Luttrell_PROFILEThe United States is experiencing a “Mobile Revolution”. Experts predict that by 2020 the number of connected devices will reach 50 billion.

The “Mobile Revolution” is changing how Americans communicate and manage nearly every aspect of daily life. These advancements have made life easier, more enjoyable, and more productive for the millions who have embraced these innovative technologies. Among those who are embracing and relying on wireless broadband services at an increasingly rapid pace – although often over looked – are farmers, ranchers, and others who make up our rural communities.

Mobile broadband connectivity has become an increasingly important part of life for rural America. Many farmers rely heavily on applications to provide critical weather and crop information while access to high speed wireless services and products allow rural Americans to have greater access to telemedicine, educational opportunities, and provide vital connections to public safety.

Congress is currently considering legislation to reallocate spectrum from the federal government for commercial use by mobile broadband providers. In fact, on July 19 the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing titled “Wireless Broadband and the Future of Spectrum Policy” .

Hearings such as this are important stepping-stones for ensuring future mobile broadband connectivity and creating solid public policy that allows all Americans to take full advantage of mobile technologies now and in the future. With the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) and the majority of consumers opting for the latest smartphones, tablets, or other connected devices – mobile broadband providers are facing a swiftly approaching spectrum shortage.

This is cause for concern for all Americans but particularly for our rural communities. Spectrum is critical to expanding high-speed mobile broadband and the demand for spectrum has never been higher. It’s estimated that wireless Internet traffic in North America is expected to grow more than 41-fold from 2011 to 2016, which is why it’s so critical for Congress to infuse more spectrum into the commercial market.

We are facing this shortage because the federal government is sitting on an overwhelming majority of spectrum. However, clearing and deploying new spectrum takes years, so in order to ensure a steady stream of spectrum to meet consumer demand, we have to begin now.

Repurposing spectrum held by the federal government for commercial use will generate significant economic activity. The Federal Communications Commission recently concluded a spectrum auction, which raised a groundbreaking $45 billion, money that’s used to reduce our growing national deficit.

The National Grange believes high-speed mobile broadband will dramatically improve life in rural America. It will create opportunities for young Americans to pursue their interests in rural America, while remaining connected with the entire globe. It will aid our older citizens to remain healthier and independent in their golden years. We must pursue all available options to provide the same high-speed wireless access seen in suburban communities to rural America.

Now is the time for congress to pass legislation that creates a long-term and predictable future for releasing valuable spectrum in order to meet the growing consumer demand for wireless technology.

The 149th Annual National Grange Convention Fastly Approaches

Mark your calendars and plan to attend the 149th Annual National Grange Convention to be held
November 10-14, 2015 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Convention2015-logo

As you are gearing up for your travel to the 149th Annual National Grange Convention, please
note that there are various travel options available to you.
Travel options are:

Lincoln Airport (LNK), located in Lincoln
Distance 4 miles from hotel
Host committee will provide transportation from this location.

Amtrak (LNK), located in Lincoln
Distance 0.54 miles from hotel
Host committee will provide transportation from this location.
Website: www.amtrak.com

Eppley Airfield (OMA), located in Omaha
Distance 65 miles from hotel
Contact Omalink for shuttle service to hotel in Lincoln. Fee required.
Website: www.omalink.com | Phone: (402) 475-5465

 

cornhuskeyThe Cornhusker
333 S 13th Street
Lincoln, NE 68508
(866) 706-7706
booknow

 

Washington’s Overlooked Barrier to Internet Access

A growing consensus is emerging in Washington about the necessity of reliable access to the Internet and online resources. Last week, in front of a packed auditorium in the capital of the Choctaw Nation, President Obama unveiled the ConnectHome initiative, which aims to provide high-speed internet to some 200,000 rural and low-income families. The month prior, Congressional leaders introduced the Digital Learning Equity Act, seeking to rollout greater out-of-school Internet access for students through Department of Education grants.

As the Internet has fast become the bedrock of commerce and communication, such efforts are critical to ensure a level playing field for businesses and communities, especially those in the rural pockets of the country.

Congress has been spinning its wheels trying to address utility patent trolls, yet they’re ignoring the looming threat of design patent trolls that have seen a catalyst from recent court decisions. Specifically, recent interpretations of Section 289 of the U.S. patent code have opened the door for businesses and individuals to seek outsized settlements for design infringements, which could further incentivize patent trolling and predatory patent litigation.

In May of this year, without any analysis of the importance of the patented designs, the Federal court ruled that an entity that infringes on a patented design could be held liable for all the profits earned from the product in which the design is incorporated. This can lead to the absurd scenario in which an unwitting infringer could be forced to pay their full profits several times over if they intrude on more than one protected design. Given that many products, especially high-tech devices incorporate numerous patented components, the outcome is untenable.

Consider, for example, a situation in which the manufacturer of a tractor might be forced to pay all his or her profits from the equipment because it infringed on a patent covering the design of the fender. The manufacturer might then be required to pay the same amount to a second patent holder with the rights to the wheel design. It quickly becomes a race of who can bleed them dry first.

This multiple damage scenario is particularly likely to occur when a single product contains different patented features held by several owners. It’s not difficult to see how soon the tractor manufacturer has little incentive to produce the equipment at all.

The potential infringement claims don’t stop at the manufacturer. It can trickle down to the store selling the tractor as well as tractor owners – who frankly aren’t purchasing tractors based on fender or wheel design, yet could be paying large sums for operating the infringing machinery. This domino effect is thanks to the “make available for sale” provision in Section 289, which shares blame with those selling an allegedly infringing a product. Under this interpretation, if a farm operator purchased equipment or tools that have infringing design patents on them online from a company like eBay or Amazon, does this then make eBay or Amazon liable for “exposing the sale” of products that infringe on design patents, even if for a minor feature? If this is the case, this will have a chilling effect on these necessary business models that provide rural customers access to a wide range of products difficult to obtain locally.

The dilemma is particularly troublesome for technology providers, and thereby for the individuals who rely on the devices they create to access the Internet. A recent Pew Research study found one in five American adults rely on their smartphone as their primary, and often only, access to the internet. In rural parts of the country still lacking adequate broadband infrastructure, it’s not uncommon that a smartphone serve as their sole connection to the Internet. Barriers that hamper development of new devices obstruct their access to online resources.

Because smartphones and other modern appliances utilize many patented technologies – the iPhone, for example, hundreds of patented elements – developers face the risk of paying out their full profit for intruding only a few discrete features, as was a court’s decision in a recent case between Apple and Samsung. With such sizable consequences, companies may well forego developing new technologies for fear it will end up costing them.

Simply put, infringement penalties should fit the scope of the infringement. One wouldn’t expect the tractor manufacturer to give up all his or her profits because of a bumper design. That shouldn’t be the case in the U.S. technology markets either.

As early as late nineteenth-century, the National Grange has advocated the risks in design patent law. In 1879, our organization cautioned about emergence of “patent sharks,” some of earliest predatory patent abusers, which patented designs on crowbars, hoes and other tools and then demanded to be paid by others in the agricultural industry. In the Apple-Samsung case [CLICK HERE TO VIEW BRIEF], the National Grange filed an Amicus brief urging the court to reconsider the outsized $399 million penalty imposed because the ruling’s implications for modern day tools – tools that are helping to close the digital divide.

In response to the courts’ failure to curb patent litigation abuse, for the past year, Congress has been debating various patent reforms. In the case of design patents, it looks like the court has again failed to interpret the law reasonably and indeed laid the groundwork for additional frivolous litigation. While we filed a brief calling on the Court to revisit this issue, if Court denies a rehearing or fails to set a reasonable standard for the award of total profits, Congress should turn some attention to the issue of design patents and provide much-needed guidance to the courts.

National Grange President’s July 2015 Message

In this July message, National Grange President Ed Luttrell discusses the exciting new Granges that are being organized across the country. Mr. Luttrell also emphasizes the importance of our State Grange annual sessions and encourages you to attend your State’s session as well as the National Session this year in Lincoln, Nebraska.

As always, we hope you like and subscribe to these videos. It’s our way of sharing important information with each and all of you.

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National Grange President’s June 2015 Message

In this June message, National Grange President Ed Luttrell recaps the successes of the National Grange Annual Legislative Fly-in. Mr. Luttrell then discusses the importance of being involved in your local, state, and federal legislative process. In addition, Mr. Luttrell then touches on the fun events Grange members can take advantage of their local areas during the month of June.

As always, we hope you like and subscribe to these videos. It’s our way of sharing important information with each and all of you.

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National Grange President’s May 2015 Message

In this May message, National Grange President Ed Luttrell recaps the successes of April’s Grange Month and discusses two new Granges that are being chartered. Mr. Luttrell also discusses the upcoming National Grange Annual Legislative Fly-In and it’s importance in our Grange activities. Ed closes by expressing the integral part that our 148 years of history plays in our identity as an organization.

As always, we hope you like and subscribe to these videos on Youtube. It’s our way of sharing important information with each and all of you.

 

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Senator Pat Toomey presented with an award for his work on Medicare Part D.

Toomey pic (2)On April 22, Betsy Huber, Pennsylvania State Grange Legislative Director, presents U.S. Senator Pat Toomey with an award for his work on Medicare Part D. Along with Betsy are representatives of the Global Colon Cancer Association and the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation.

National Grange President’s April 2015 Message

In this April message, National Grange President, Ed Luttrell, discusses the importance of Grange Month with a focus on using the event to invite new Grange members into your local Grange.

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