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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Don’t Claim Popular Phrases as Trademarks, and Be Careful Using Them in Advertising

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Attempting to cash in on a popular phrase is risky. Think twice before applying to register a popular phrase as a trademark, and do your homework before selling goods or branding services with a popular phrase. Remember the 2015 terrorist attack on the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hedbo? In its wake, “Je Read the full article…

Could your business be banned from public contracting because of your views on controversial issues?

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Could your business get banned from public contracting because of something controversial posted by someone associated with your business on social media? For example, what if a member of your senior management posts a strong view on Facebook either for or against illegal immigration? Could someone in the government ban your firm from competing for Read the full article…

Should Your Business Seek a Trademark Registration on a Hashtag?

Monday, October 16th, 2017

In 2012, McDonald’s launched a Twitter marketing campaign based on the hashtag “#McDStories.” It wanted customers to tweet about good times at McDonald’s. Unfortunately for McDonald’s, negative tweets such as these stole the show: “Dude, I used to work at McDonald’s. The #McDStories I could tell would raise your hair.” “Fingernail in my BigMac Once Read the full article…

Can Politicians and Businesses Legally Block People on Social Media?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

The Tweeter in Chief, President Trump, was sued in July by a group trying to force him to stop blocking critics on Twitter. For that reason, a pair of recent decisions addressing politicians and social media by a federal trial judge in Virginia are getting attention. Those decisions were made by United States District Judge Read the full article…

Tales of Woe from Companies That Reposted Pictures on Instagram Without Permission

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Does your business use Instagram to promote itself? If so, beware that posting on Instagram photos taken by others could be copyright infringement. First, some technology: Instagram does not provide a way for users to “repost” pictures posted by others on Instagram. There is a workaround. You can screenshot on your phone a picture from Read the full article…

Website Owners: The Rules for Protecting Yourself from Copyright Infringement Liability Just Changed

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

In business, your company faces many risks. If you try to manage every risk, you won’t have time or money left to make your product or provide your service. You have to decide which ones to address and how much to pursue them. With that in mind, consider a new legal risk to any business Read the full article…

The Slants Channel The Producers, and Win One for the Redskins

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

An ethnic-minority rock band just saved the REDSKINS federal trademark registrations from cancellation. Ironic, no? Whenever people hear about the recent Supreme Court case concerning the Asian rock band The Slants, they think about the Washington Redskins, because that case saved the trademark registrations for the REDSKINS name. Not me. I think of the classic Read the full article…

Things You’ll Wish You Had Done When Your Star Employee Defects

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

When a key employee defects to a competitor company, it’s Judgment Day for how well you have prepared for such a possibility. If you prepared well, you might be able to crush the defection. You might even prevent it from happening. But if you haven’t, there may be little you can do to protect your Read the full article…

Do Your Legal Research Before Your Kid Picks a College

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Yes, this is a law-and-business column. But one of the biggest financial expenditures you’ll ever make is paying to send your kid to college. Because it’s the season for high-school seniors to accept college admission offers, and because high-school juniors are forming their college-application lists, take a moment to research whether you will be at Read the full article…

What Can You Do to Preempt the Nutcase Complainer Who Might Trash Your Business Online?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Every small business fears the online review by the nutcase who trashes your business. Because a small business might get only a few reviews, a real stinker could really hurt. Related to this, a new federal law prohibits businesses from using form contracts to prevent consumers from posting reviews about those businesses. While you need Read the full article…