Small Business Tips 4

smallclaimsUsing Small Claims Court to Collect a Debt

As a small business owner you want to spend your time working with customers and developing your business, not collecting debts. Sometimes though, it is necessary to take legal action to collect a debt. In some instances small claims court offers the best opportunity to resolve a collection matter. If you have questions or need assistance collecting a debt, contact your LegalShield provider law firm today.

  • Exhaust your alternatives. Make an effort to collect the debt before going to court. Your LegalShield provider law firm can write a collection letter on your behalf. You may also consider working out a payment plan or other alternatives. Review our article on Debt Collection for Small Businesses from February 2014 for more information.
  • Know the maximum amount you can collect in small claims court. Different states have varying thresholds for what amounts can be disputed in small claims court. For instance, in Virginia claims may not exceed $5,000, while in California they may not exceed $10,000. Talk to your LegalShield provider law firm about the laws that govern small claims court in your state.
  • File the correct paperwork. It is important to file the correct paperwork in order to receive a court date for your matter. Discuss the process with your LegalShield provider attorney to make sure you understand the necessary procedures to bring your matter before the court.
  • Know who will need to appear in court. Some states do not require the business owner to appear in court and may allow you to send an employee on behalf of the company. In those cases it is important to send someone with first-hand knowledge of the matter, such as a bookkeeper or a manager, who dealt directly with the customer. Speak with your LegalShield provider attorney to learn more about the laws in your state.
  • Compile and organize your evidence. The quality and accuracy of your documentation may make all the difference in court. A payment policy or contract, signed by the customer, will help your case. In addition, you should have with you copies of invoices, past due notices, or any other correspondence you sent to the other party.
  • Prepare and rehearse your argument prior to court. Part of being prepared for court involves knowing what to expect and how to properly present your argument. Your LegalShield provider law firm can help explain what to expect and what information may be most important to the court. Call and speak with an attorney today if you have any questions about small claims court or need assistance collecting a debt.

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Having easy access to the proper tools and resources is key to ensuring your business runs smoothly. That’s why we are pleased to provide you new small business forms now available on the member’s only site There are a total of 26 forms that cover topics from Articles of Incorporation, Employment Agreements and LLC Operating Agreements. At LegalShield it’s our goal to help support you and continue to make your membership a valuable part of your day to day business operations.

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iplawIs Someone Stealing Your Intellectual Property?

Ask yourself, what would happen to your business if a competitor began using your company’s name or began selling a product identical to one that you developed? Could your business survive? The best way to protect your innovations and creations is through effective enforcement of intellectual property (IP) law. Many small business owners falsely believe IP law is only for large corporations and is not worth their time and money, but no small business can afford to ignore protecting their intellectual property. Call your LegalShield provider law firm today to learn more about your legal options.

  • Copyright Law – Copyright laws protect the intellectual property of artists including written text, photographs, paintings and designs. Copyright law is particularly important to professional photographers, musicians, writers and other visual artists. Copyright is established when a work is created. For example, when a photographer takes a picture they immediately hold the copyright of that image, unless the image was taken on behalf of an employer as part of the photographer’s job duties or the photograph was commissioned for another use. In those cases the copyright is granted to the employer or the individual who commissioned the work respectively. The internet has increased greatly the number of copyright violations. Images, videos and music are often shared with no regard for their copyright. If you need assistance protecting your work, call your LegalShield provider law firm today.
  • Trademark or Service Mark – A trademark includes the design, name, words and phrases used to identify your business and products. A service mark identifies the provider of services, rather than hard goods. Your trademark or service mark constitutes the identity of your business. You are not required to register a trade or service mark, but failing to do so could leave you vulnerable. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website includes resources on Trademark registration for small business owners. If you need assistance registering a trademark or have any questions call your LegalShield provider law firm.
  • Patent Protection – Because inventors and innovators frequently lack the financial resources to produce or distribute their own inventions, patent law exists to protect those innovations or inventions from reproduction without permission or compensation. Once a patent is registered it becomes a public record and the duration of a patent is limited. There are several types of patents including, design, plant and utility patents. The filing process and wait times for patent registration may take a great deal of time. Speak with your LegalShield provider law firm before you begin the process. It is important to make sure you are on the correct path before proceeding. You may also review the USPTO website for additional information.