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Last year, we blogged about the new "fast track" (Track One Prioritized Examination) system for patent applications. The idea is simple: Pay more upfront, do less work, and get your patent faster.

By many accounts, the new fast track was definitely faster than older expedited methods (an average of 184 days from filing to allowance), and was cheaper too -- research published on the Patently-O blog said that despite the higher upfront cost, fast-tracked patents would actually save money in the long run.

Who's hopped on to the fast-track train since then? No surprise that it's a tech company -- namely, Google.

It seems like every month we wake up to another story about some giant company getting hacked -- or worse, negligently storing user data out in the open where anyone can get to it.

In the wake of data privacy breach after data privacy breach, the FCC is finally doing something other than worrying about Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction. On Friday, the FCC proposed a fine of $10 million against TerraCom and YourTel America for data privacy breaches.

How does this affect general counsel?

Here's a lesson for companies: Trying to deceive customers into paying for bogus things they never ordered will cost you. First, the FTC said it would go after T-Mobile. Now, it's settled with AT&T for $105 million.

Cram It, AT&T

"Mobile cramming" is the practice of charging the customer for a service the customer didn't ask for, according to the FTC. Apparently, AT&T was incentivized to help the practice along, thanks to the 35 percent cut of the cramming charges it received from third parties that sent customers unwanted texts, ringtones, or other minutiae (referred to as "premium short message services" or PSMS).

Once in a while, you have to applaud the villain's genius. This alleged scheme by Marriott's Nashville Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center? Kind of genius.

According to the FCC, Marriott jammed convention-goers' personal Wi-Fi hotspot signals, while charging exorbitant fees for access to Marriott's own network. Marriott, which reportedly agreed to a $600,000 fine and a three-year consent decree, assured the public that they were merely protecting them.

The FTC is here to drink milk and kick butt -- and it just finished its milk. Operation Full Disclosure is an FTC initiative designed to encourage truth in advertising. According to a press release, the FTC sent warning letters to 60 advertisers regarding factual claims and disclaimers in TV and print ads.

Weight loss ads were targeted for not noting that the results embodied in testimonials weren't typical. Ads claiming a "free trial" of a product didn't say that the consumer had to pay for shipping. And so on.

Is this deja vu, or deja deja deja vu?

Back in April, Senate Republicans rejected the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014. At the time, The Washington Post noted that it was the third attempt in recent years to pass the wage equality legislation. But hey, maybe the fourth time would be a charm?

No. Not at all. This time, according to The Hill, Wednesday's vote was 52-40, short of the 60-vote procedural hurdle needed to advance. The vote seems like more of a political move than an actual attempt to pass legislation -- it's not like a handful of senators swapped party affiliation since the 53-44 vote in the spring, after all. But more importantly, for businesses, this should cause more than a few GCs to utter a sigh of relief.

Wait, so you're not allowed to send cute, overly familiar emails to the regulatory board that is going to decide how much your company gets dinged for blowing up a bunch of houses and killing some peeps a few years back, demanding that you get a more lenient administrative law judge?

Now you tell me. And now Pacific Gas & Electric knows, after a series of back-and-forth emails detailing a way too close relationship between the utility company and California's Public Utilities Commission (PUC) came to light. Three execs and a top aide at the state agency just served as the sacrificial lambs, while PG&E scurries to "put new procedures in place" before they get slammed by the suddenly less friendly PUC.

Let's see what we can learn from this mess, shall we?

Is your company engaging in false advertising? Are you sure? When was the last time someone from the marketing department walked through your door to make sure they were on the up-and-up?

Maybe it's time you checked. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating "outlet stores" -- those low-priced colonies of large clothing labels like Saks, J. Crew, Gap, and so on -- that live in outlying outlet malls around the nation.

Last year, in the wake of two well-known startups (Uber and Square) clashing with local laws and regulations, we asked who was at fault -- the disruptor or the disrupted, the startups or the state?

Both startups, but especially Uber, had run headfirst into local ordinances, regulations, and cartels bent on preserving the status quo, but also hadn't done their homework or made an effort to play the political game before entering the market and upsetting the (legal) status quo -- easier to get forgiveness than permission, we suppose.

Now, Uber has pulled a U-turn and hired a noted behind-the-scenes political figure to glad-hand politicians: David Plouffe, Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaign manager.

Think that data stored in overseas data centers are outside the reach of U.S. law? Think again. A U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan has affirmed a magistrate's ruling ordering Microsoft to give overseas-stored data to federal prosecutors.

The ruling -- which Microsoft vows to appeal -- has implications for companies that store their data in other countries. In fact, email providers like Google -- which provide non-Google-branded email services that are hosted by Google -- store files in data centers around the world. Many corporations use Gmail to host their email because it's cheaper than maintaining their own email systems on-site or in-house.

If your company stores files abroad -- and there's a good chance it does -- then those files may very well be within the reach of American law enforcement.