Capital Roundup

Letting the States Decide<@VM>R&D Tax Credits<@VM>Curbing Cybersquatting

The House Judiciary Committee passed in a narrow 15-14 vote a bill permitting the use of electronic signatures and contracts in e-commerce, but giving the states more control in the rules governing such transactions.

"In the coming months, states will undoubtedly adopt uniform rules that will address the use of electronic signatures and contracts," said Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., who sponsored the bill.

Until a uniform standard is adopted, Berman said, the bill would provide a framework to legally recognize electronic signatures. But some lawmakers oppose the bill because they think it gives the states too much control.

Rep. James Rogan

Senators are leaning toward passing a bill that would extend research and development tax credits for up to two years, a move that could benefit the information technology industry.

The bill, being mulled by the Senate Finance Committee, is one version of a larger tax extender package being pushed by the Republican leadership in the Senate.

The House Ways and Means Committee passed its version of the tax extender package that included a provision that extends the R&D credit through June 30, 2004.

However, the White House has threatened to veto that version of the package because of larger budget issues.

The tax fight is expected to drag out over the next several weeks.The House Judiciary Committee passed and sent to the full House the Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act to prevent cybersquatting, or the practice of registering an Internet domain name or establishing a Web site with a trademark name or title by someone other than the rightful owner.

The bill, offered by Reps. James Rogan, R-Calif., and Rick Boucher, D-Va., prohibits registration, trafficking in or use of a domain name that is identical to or confusingly similar to a trademark that is distinctive at the time the domain name is registered.

The Senate passed similar legislation in the summer.

"This legislation will give us the opportunity to shore up consumer confidence in legitimate brand names, while discouraging fraudulent electronic commerce," Rogan said.

? Anne Gallagher

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