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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Do’s and Don’ts for Businesses Using Photos Found Online

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

About a year ago, an Alexandria federal trial court issued a decision that panicked commercial photographers. The decision could be interpreted as holding that it’s OK for a business to use someone else’s photograph in advertising without permission. To the relief of copyright owners, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed it. The Read the full article…

BB&T and SunTrust become Truist and get sued by Truliant Federal Credit Union – What Trademark-Selection Lessons Can Be Learned?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

A trademark fight just broke out involving the merger of BB&T and SunTrust, two banks with heavy footprints in Central Virginia. Those combining banks recently announced their merged name (meaning their trademark) will be “Truist.” Shortly afterward, Truliant Federal Credit Union sued BB&T and SunTrust for trademark infringement. Truliant contends “Truist” is confusingly similar to Read the full article…

Liability for False Advertising: Kings, Corn Syrup, Beer, and Half-Truths

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

I love the scene in the movie The Pink Panther Strikes Again where Inspector Clouseau is checking into a small inn. At the front desk, Clouseau notices a dog lying on the floor. He asks the innkeeper, “Does your dog bite?” “No,” responds the innkeeper. Clouseau bends down to pat the dog on the head Read the full article…

What are the Implications for Businesses of the Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling on Copyright Registration?

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

The Supreme Court recently held you can’t sue someone for copyright infringement until you register your copyright with the federal Copyright Office. How does this ruling impact businesses? To understand the implications, we must first review basics: A copyright covers an original expression fixed in a tangible medium. Copyrights typically owned by businesses include website Read the full article…

Must Your Business’s Website Be ADA Compliant?

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Businesses are getting hit by lawsuits from plaintiffs’ attorneys claiming their websites don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). While the ADA was enacted before the commercial Internet existed, courts interpret the ADA as requiring businesses that are “public accommodations” to have websites usable by the disabled. The ADA doesn’t give an Read the full article…

Amazon Sellers: Understand What the Amazon Brand Registry Can and Won’t Do for You

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

Amazon is pushing its Amazon Brand Registry as a way for brand owners to enhance their position and attack counterfeit merchandise on Amazon. Let’s look at what it does and does not do. Some background first: A “brand” is advertising lingo for a trademark. It’s a business, product, or service name, such as GOPRO or Read the full article…

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…