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John B.
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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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Supreme Court Paves the Way for Paying Big-Time College Athletes

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

The handwriting of the Supreme Court is on the wall. If left to the courts, they will rule that NCAA college amateurism rules violate antitrust law. I expect major-college athletes, at least football and men’s basketball players, will be paid employees easily within a decade, perhaps much sooner. You probably have heard about the Supreme Read the full article…


The NFT Craze Raises a Big Question: What are Smart Contracts?

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Have you heard about “smart contracts”? Are they contracts like the kind you sign? What can you do with them right now? Will they replace lawyers? They come up in discussion of the latest investment craze, NFT’s. Popular NFT’s include NBA Top Shot, digital art, and items that can be used in online games, like Read the full article…


How did some Central Virginia Trademark Fights Turn Out? Did We Learn Anything?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

In recent years, I’ve written about trademark fights of interest to central Virginia. I checked back to see how they came out. Perhaps we can learn lessons from them. VCU Men’s Basketball and HAVOCThen. In 2015, Shaka Smart left being head coach of VCU men’s basketball to take the same job at the University of Read the full article…


Digital Collectibles, NBA Top Shot, What You Really Get, and How Risky is It?

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

Perhaps you missed out on becoming instantly crazy rich by not buying Gamestop stock when the Reddit crowd was sending it to the Moon. Would you now like to try your luck on digital non-fungible tokens such as, perhaps, a hot Moment in NBA Top Shot? If so, what are you really buying? Is the Read the full article…


New Law Creates Fast-Track Process for Challenging Fraudulent Trademark Registrations from China. Will Big U.S. Trademark Interests Succeed in Gutting It?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

At the end of 2020, President Trump signed into law a Covid-19 relief bill containing important new tools for attacking illegitimate trademark registrations. They address a big problem, fraudulent trademark registrations, which frequently come from China. These fraudulent registrations block businesses from getting trademark registrations for their business, product, and service names. Unfortunately, big U.S. Read the full article…


New Small-Claims Copyright Court Tucked in Latest COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the latest Covid-19 stimulus bill. While the $600 checks dominated the news, tucked away in the over 5000-page bill is a new small-claims court for copyright-infringement claims. This court will be useful for businesses having claims that aren’t worth the expense of federal-court litigation. The primary Read the full article…


How College Athletes Will Get Paid, Starting This Year

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

How college athletes will get paid is coming into focus. The Supreme Court just took a case that could expand what colleges provide to athletes. Meanwhile, the NCAA plans to issue rules in early 2021 on how athletes can earn money using their names, images, and likenesses (“NIL”). The Supreme Court will consider whether antitrust Read the full article…


College Athletes Can Soon Earn NIL Money, So They Need to Work on Their Trademarks

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

The battle over whether college athletes should earn money from their names, images, and likeness (“NIL”) is over. While the NCAA will set final rules in January, it’s a done deal. College athletes will be able to harvest NIL revenue beginning in the fall of 2022. NIL monetization will occur mainly via social media. Athletes Read the full article…


Is Your Smartphone Your Enemy? Beware of Google Geofence Warrants and Subpoenas

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

A precedent-setting legal fight is taking place in federal court in Richmond regarding the government subpoenaing smartphone geolocation information from Google to look for cold hits in criminal cases. This case sheds light on Google’s ability to give “geofence” location information about smartphone users to government prosecutors and civil litigants. Be aware Google could disclose Read the full article…


Virginia’s Covidwise Contact-Tracing App Passes the Privacy Test

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

In August, the Virginia Department of Health (“VDH”) launched a smartphone app called “Covidwise” for self-reporting Covid-19 infections and receiving notification of prolonged, recent exposure to someone with Covid-19. Being a lawyer, I wondered whether that app could turn into your legal enemy. Might it set you up to be identified and then sued or Read the full article…