Transborder Transfers of Data Outside Europe Need New Rules

The European Commission established a Data Protection Working Party on data protection and privacy—an independent advisory body set up under the Data Protection Directive. This Working Party recently published an opinion relating to the EC’s draft standard contract terms that apply to the movement of data across national borders, notably between Member States within and outside of the EU. 

Specifically, the Working Party recommended that the Commission develop brand new model contract provisions to deal with international and multi-national data processing involving transfers of data outside the EC—a long-standing sore point among companies in countries that have historically been viewed as having "inadequate" privacy and data protections. These model or standard contract terms would establish acceptable contractual protections between entities that control data within the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) and data processors they use outside the European Community, to ensure protections are comparable.

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The FTC Gets Into the Patent Act

The FTC recently held that Rambus, a developer of computer memory technology, violated Section 5 of the FTC Act, engaging in monopolistic practices—abusing the process for setting industry standards for memory chips (DRAM). Rambus participated in the standard setting, but didn’t reveal it applied for and obtained patents that included technology incorporated into the very standards Rambus helped to craft. The FTC held that as a result of Rambus’ deceptive conduct, it engaged in anticompetitive conduct. The FTC found Rambus had intentionally and willfully engaged in deceptive conduct and misled others in the standards-setting organization—clearly to its detriment.

The Commission determined that Rambus’ conduct enabled it to acquire patent monopoly power in a number of relevant and related markets, while its deceptive behavior within the standards-setting organization led to the adoption of standards by the industry group that unwittingly incorporated Rambus’ patent rights. At least one FTC Commissioner went even farther and wrote that the abuse and deception within the standards-setting process was not only in violation of antitrust laws, but also constituted an unfair method of competition in violation of the broad scope of the FTC Act.