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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Should You Use Fingerprint Unlock on Your New Phone?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Should you activate the fingerprint unlock feature on you new iPhone 6? That might depend on how much you fear the government. Regardless of whether you do so, be aware of your rights regarding whether the police may search your cell phone. Let’s start with a few recent court decisions. In June, the Supreme Court Read the full article…

Is Software Patenting Dead?

Monday, December 1st, 2014

It appears computer software patents died last June. If so, there will be rejoicing by the many businesses plagued by patent trolls. Last June, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that you cannot get a valid patent on conducting a business process on a generic computer. In other words, you cannot take a business Read the full article…

Virginia’s Anti-Patent Troll Statute Got the Shad Treatment

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Virginia’s new anti-patent troll law got the shad treatment on its way to enactment. When I was in law school in the 80’s, I took a class on legislative drafting taught by a Virginia state senator and a politically connected law professor. That’s where I learned about the “shad treatment.” My teachers explained that the Read the full article…

The Redskins Fight On In Federal Court For Its Trademark Registrations

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

The Redskins recently suffered a major loss that won’t cause the team to fold but still hurts its prospects. Quarterback Robert Griffin III’s dislocated left ankle? Well, that too, but I’m talking about the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revoking several of the team’s registrations for its REDSKINS trademark, holding that the trademark is disparaging Read the full article…

Survey: Half of U.S. Trademark Registrations Are at Least Partially Illegitimate

Friday, August 1st, 2014

A recent survey revealed that about half of all federal trademark registrations are at least partially illegitimate. This illegitimacy blocks businesses from being able to obtain trademark registrations they want and discourages businesses from selecting new trademarks they prefer. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) just released the results of a survey it conducted Read the full article…

Preserve Evidence of First Use of Your Trademark

Friday, August 1st, 2014

With trademarks, older is better. Be prepared to prove your trademark’s age. If you are in business, you probably own one or more trademarks. A product or service name usually is a trademark, and usually a business name is a trademark too. You might get into a dispute with another business over who began using Read the full article…

Be Careful Using People Pictures in Publicity

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Posted on June 29, 2014 The news is popping with famous people suing over unauthorized use of their likenesses for profit. Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon is leading a class action lawsuit against the NCAA. He seeks a ruling that college basketball and football players should get a cut of TV revenue. Video game Read the full article…

Explaining the REDSKINS Decision

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Posted on June 28, 2014. Some key things to know about the recent decision to cancel federal registrations for the trademark REDSKINS, which was made by an administrative court in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: • The decision does not force the Redskins to change their name. You don’t need a trademark registration to Read the full article…

Islam, Redskins, Abortion, Trademarks and the First Amendment . . . Oh My!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Posted on May 21, 2014. It’s been an interesting and controversial month for the relationship between trademark law and the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In mid-May, a federal appellate court upheld a refusal by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (the “USPTO”) to register the trademark STOP Read the full article…

Courts Define Who Can Sue Over False Advertising and What Counts as False Advertising

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Posted on April 24, 2014. A couple of recent court decisions provided guidance on who can sue over false advertising and on whether rants on blogs or consumer review sites constitute false advertising. False advertising is when one business hurts another’s business by making false statements, such as false claims about your own product or Read the full article…