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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Dealing with Facebook Place Pages with Bad Reviews and Unflattering Pictures

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Someone writes a negative review of a business on social media. It might be by a customer or a purported current or former employee. The targeted business wants it taken down. Using the law usually isn’t a cost-effective option here, if it’s even an option at all. But, in the case of negative reviews on Read the full article…

Watch Out for Fake Chinese Trademark Registrations

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Chinese trademark applications are flooding the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). This could hurt your business’s ability to get trademark registrations on its business, product, and service names. In federal fiscal year 2014, Chinese applicants filed 6290 applications. That increased to 13,633 in fiscal year 2015, to 28,869 in 2016, and to 46,634 Read the full article…

Can Employers Use Trade Secret Law to Snag Twitter Accounts from Departing Employees?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

If an employee with a large Twitter following leaves, and if the employee primarily used the Twitter account for business promotion, can the former employer use trade-secret law to claw back the account? This is the central issue in a dispute between former Roanoke Times sports writer Andy Bitter and the company that owns The Read the full article…

When Hashtagging for Your Business, Beware of Others’ Trademarks

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Using the wrong hashtag in marketing can backfire on you. In 2014, DiGiorno noticed the hashtag #WhyIStayed trending on Twitter, so it tried to catch the wave by tweeting: “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” The DiGiorno tweeter should have checked the hashtag’s meaning before posting. It was being used by women to discuss their experiences in Read the full article…

Can Your Business Safely Parody a Famous Trademark in Its Products or Marketing?

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Let’s take a quiz: Question #1: Which slogan isn’t owned and used by the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC)? (A) “Virginia is for Beach Lovers” (B) “Virginia is for Gun Lovers” (C) “Virginia is for Craft-Beer Lovers” (D) “Virginia is for Oyster Lovers.” Answer: “Virginia is for Gun Lovers” Question #2: If you saw “Virginia is Read the full article…

Be Careful About Graffiti Art and Commissioned Art Painted on Your Buildings

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Do graffiti artists have rights protecting what they paint on buildings? The question made me think of the locally famous mural on the side of Ellwood Thompson’s Market in Carytown. It shows a lady picking oranges. It has a 1920’s worker’s collective vibe, which fits the market. It was painted under commission by local artist Read the full article…

Will the Gutting of WHOIS Hurt Your Business?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

A recent change to the WHOIS system, which creates a public record of domain-name ownership, will cause big problems for stopping pfishing and malware attacks and trademark infringements. WHOIS provides contact information for someone who registers a domain name. It includes the individual’s name, company or organization if applicable, address, email address, and telephone number. Read the full article…

Tips for Protecting Your Company’s Intellectual Property When Using Summer Employees and Interns

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

‘Tis the season for companies onboarding summer employees and unpaid interns (I’ll call them “employees” for simplicity’s sake). Below are tips for protecting your company’s intellectual property (“IP” in lawyer lingo) during their employment. You Need a Written Agreement. You should have a written agreement with your employees that covers confidentiality and IP ownership. It Read the full article…

Embedding Social Media Posts Can Be Copyright Infringement

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Tom Brady’s Instagram account is a bizarre rabbit hole. His social-media team posts an odd cartoon after every Patriots victory. It is impossible to describe the fever-dream quality of these cartoons. One features Brady in a scuba suit, a tattooed dolphin selling fidget spinners, and a mustachioed crocodile. Another has Brady and teammate Dont’a Hightower Read the full article…

College-Picking Time: Talk with Your Child About Sex Offenses and Investigate Due Process

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

It’s the time of year when high school seniors make college selections. Before picking, investigate how prospective colleges handle sex-related offenses and talk with your child about this issue. This concerns the quality of due process on college campuses for students accused of sex-related offenses. “Due process” means the fairness to the accused of the Read the full article…