There are many ways an Attorney with specialized knowledge and training in the applicable laws, regulations, policies and technologies can help businesses either currently operating in or considering entering the commercial “Internet of Things” marketplace.
Following are just ten (10) areas where an IoT Attorney (or IoT focused law firm) can provide meaningful value:
The IoT business model transformation is blurring the lines between products and services for taxation purposes. Companies that add value to products by selling connectivity services could be considered service providers, or even telecommunications carriers,by pertinent taxing authorities. Taxing agencies are rethinking their rules to ensure that they are receiving “fair revenues” from products that have various capabilities bundled into a single product offering. There are substantial costs associated with calculating, tracking, and collecting telecom-related taxes, fees, and surcharges. Tax planning is essential, from the design process up through marketing all devices and services. Experienced IoT Attorneys can assist companies with understanding and complying with the complex tax requirements as they apply to individual products and services.
2. Regulatory Compliance (and Mitigation/Regulatory Avoidance)
IoT involves connectivity. Connectivity involves the transmission of data. The transmission of certain types of data and in certain ways can give rise to a myriad of regulatory complications at the Federal Communications Commission and, potentially, state utility commission levels. Avoid going to market with an IoT solution until you know the ins and outs of how that service is likely to be viewed by regulatory authorities. Many steps can be taken to mitigate and, potentially, avoid altogether the regulatory burdens imposed on providers of “telecommunications.” Too often we see companies rushing to market with solutions that should be treated as unregulated “Internet Access” and/or “Information Services,” but due to labeling, marketing and other reasons, would likely be treated as “telecommunications” by USAC auditors and FCC investigators. Avoid these mis-steps and avoid the cost of convincing a regulator that your services are exempt from regulation by taking action before “going live” with your IoT solution.
3. Privacy & Data Security
Growth of the IoT coincides with the rise of big data, as IoT sensors and networks generate vast quantities of real-time information. Privacy and data security compliance is extremely important in the IoT marketplace. Among other things, the federal government is currently conducting audits to ensure compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Entities that handle protected health information (PHI) must have safeguards in place have very specific safeguards in place to protect against unauthorized use and disclosure of PHI. And, cyber security legislation is being considered in the current Congress, addressing several issues relevant to IoT applications, such as information sharing and notification of data breaches. Experienced privacy and data security Attorneys can assist IoT businesses to determine whether current security measures are satisfactory, and ensure that their systems are compliant with the applicable data protection laws, in the U.S. and abroad.
4. Spectrum Access
Electromagnetic spectrum is a critical link in IoT development. Access to spectrum, both licensed and unlicensed, is essential for IoT devices and objects to communicate wirelessly. The FCC’s spectrum allocation process is complex, and the agency is currently revising its rules for obtaining spectrum in many frequency bands that will become scarce as new technologies for IoT mobile communications are developed. An IoT Lawyer with experience before the FCC’s Wireless Bureau and spectrum issues can help companies in assessing their spectrum needs and ensuring that they have access to the spectrum they need to operate their devices.
5. Vendor Contract Review/Negotiation
Businesses that adopt IoT solutions will need to ensure the way in which they do this addresses legal requirements. Much of this will relate to the contractual relationships that will support the technology and connectivity. Regulatory issues arise in contract provisions concerning: regulatory responsibility, warranty, indemnification, liability, privacy, data protection, content, and damages. A qualified IoT Attorney can effectively assist IoT companies in making sure that those and other issues are addressed in their favor in various types of contracts.
6. Equipment Authorization/Compliance
All countries have very specific rules and regulations as to authorization of RF devices. Authorization requirements typically concern compliance with equipment classification, RF emissions testing and reporting, registration, labeling, device modification, responsible parties, importation, and post-market agency follow-up. Countries typically have very strict authorization requirements; violations of same can result in stiff financial penalties, device confiscation, and even the banning of a company’s products from the market. We can assist businesses with compliance regarding those matters, as well as the mechanics of obtaining authorization of its products. Our firm literally “wrote the guide” to global and U.S. RF equipment compliance.
7. Marketing Rules, Exemptions and Waivers
We advise companies on compliance with regulations concerning marketing products in a given country, e.g. what types of activities constitute “marketing” and what must be done to comply with the applicable laws. We also advise companies on exemptions to the general rules concerning marketing non-authorized products in a given country, e.g., trade show, testing, and sales contact exemptions. And when rules need to be waived, we can assist companies in obtaining regulatory rule waivers, where permitted by law.
8. Risk Assessment and Compliance Planning
Given the “moving targets” of regulatory compliance, it can be difficult to determine just what is required, and what the costs would be of inadvertent non-compliance. We advise on companies on their individual compliance requirements and their risk levels concerning same.
9. Updates on Rule Changes
We keep clients advised on changes to regulatory and tax rules pertinent to their businesses.
10. Representation in Enforcement and Rulemaking Proceedings.
Should an IoT business be accused of a rule violation, we can represent that company in enforcement proceedings before the FCC and other agencies. We have a solid record of successful representation. And, as we keep abreast of agency proceedings, we can advise and assist businesses in participation in rulemaking proceedings that are critical to their operations and growth.
We Can Help!
These are just some of the ways in which an IoT focused law firm, like Marashlian & Donahue, PLLC, The CommLaw Group, can be of assistance to companies either considering or currently operating in the IoT sector.
IoT Attorney Ronald E. Quirk Jr., is a Senior Managing Attorney at The CommLaw Group, where he focuses his practice on federal, state and international telecommunications regulation and policy, with a particular expertise in assisting clients in navigating the complex labyrinths of RF equipment authorization and enforcement processes around the world. His career has spanned more than 20 years, including several years at AMLAW 100 firms and the FCC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 714-1305.