John B.


Lawrence E. Laubscher, Jr.


Ian D. Titley

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John Farmer's Column  

John wears two hats – columnist and lawyer. He writes a monthly column, Leading-Edge Law, for the Richmond Times-Dispatch on breaking legal issues in the e-commerce, intellectual property and high-tech fields. He’s been writing columns since 1998.
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Businesses Need to Understand the Copyright Implications of Using ChatGPT

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

By now, you’ve probably heard of ChatGPT. It’s an artificial intelligence (“AI”) site offered by a company called OpenAI. ChatGPT and its ilk will dramatically affect content creators. It can be used to write shockingly good essays and computer code. Businesses could use it to compose explanations and summaries of things. But it has limited Read the full article…

Will Colleges Lose Their Trademark Monopoly on Selling Sports Fan Gear?

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

Let’s take a reader poll: When you see someone wearing a T-shirt with the name or logo of a college, do you think that either the college made the item or licensed the manufacturer to do so? Do you think the law requires you to have a license from a college to put its name Read the full article…

The Supreme Court Will be Dragged into the Social Media Censorship Dispute. Businesses Should Care.

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

It looks like the Supreme Court will be forced to enter the social media free-speech policy war. While this has enormous implications for society, it also may have consequences for businesses. Conservatives rail against what they perceive as censorship by social media companies, especially Twitter and Facebook. Responding to that criticism, Florida and Texas enacted Read the full article…

Reelin’ in the Legal Problems: Is a Local Yacht Rock Band’s Steely Dan Tribute Wine a Trademark Problem?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

Let’s take a survey. There’s a new wine-in-a-can product called “Steely Can.” Three kinds of wine are offered: “Rosé Darling,” “Kid Chardonnay,” and “Deacon Red.” If you are over, say, 40, you will get the reference to the rock-jazz band Steely Dan and three of its most famous songs: “Rose Darling,” “Kid Charlemagne,” and “Deacon Read the full article…

Can You Agree with Competitors to Not Target Each Other in Google Ads?

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

If you own a business, are Google Ads your best friend, worst enemy, or vexing frenemy? These are the ads that show up in Google search results, usually at the top. Businesses hate it when a competitor runs a Google Ad triggered by a search of its name. For example, Spacely Sprockets hates it when Read the full article…

Yes, Ohio State Registered Just THE as a Trademark. Should We be Worried?

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

Ohio State once filed an administrative lawsuit in the federal Trademark Office to stop the University of Oklahoma from getting a trademark registration on a depiction of an Oklahoma drum major because of the block letter “O” shown on the front of the drum major. Ohio State claimed the block letter “O” is its trademark Read the full article…

Legal Issues to Watch With the Metaverse for Businesses That Don’t Want to Go There

Friday, June 24th, 2022

Do you plan to take your business into the metaverse? Even if you don’t, it presents legal issues you should think about. Let’s first look at where it stands. There is no singular metaverse, and it’s under construction. There isn’t even agreement as to what a metaverse is. I consider it to be a persistent, Read the full article…

Twitter, Free Speech, Elon Musk, and Donald Trump – Oh, My!

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

I’m sure you’ve heard Elon Musk is working on buying Twitter. He has tweeted it is the “de facto public town square” and fails to “adhere to free-speech principles.” Because the First Amendment applies only to government activity, Twitter is not bound by its free-speech protections. But, as a thought exercise, if Musk purchases Twitter Read the full article…

Dealing with Blockchain Domain Names – It’s the 1990s Again

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Mark Twain supposedly once quipped, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” With the new blockchain domain names, businesses get to revisit the birth of the cybersquatting hassle of the 1990s, but it’s different this time. These are domain names such as .crypto, .eth (which stands for Ethereum, a blockchain), .nft, and .bitcoin. They Read the full article…

Intellectual Property is a Casualty in the New War

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

Sadly, we now have a ground war in Europe and a new Cold War with Russia. Less publicized is the war Russia has effectively declared on Western intellectual property in response to Western sanctions and supplying of arms to Ukraine. Attacking the intellectual property rights of your enemy isn’t new to warfare. The United States Read the full article…