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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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…

Lessons for All Businesses Found in Stone Brewing Company’s Trademark Fight

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Craft brewer Stone Brewing Co. recently sued MillerCoors for trademark infringement. Stone Brewing, which has a brewpub in Richmond, claims its STONE trademark is being infringed because MillerCoors lately has been calling its KEYSTONE LIGHT beer just STONE. MillerCoors recently redesigned the KEYSTONE LIGHT beer can to emphasize the word “STONE.” “STONE” now runs the Read the full article…

Can the Police Force You to Unlock Your Phone?

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

What can your face do for you? In Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, he muses that Helen of Troy’s face was so beautiful that her abandonment of her husband and elopement triggered the Trojan War and the launching of a thousand ships. A classic Timex watch commercial from the 80’s shows an ugly woman’s face cracking all Read the full article…

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…