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Homeowners Association vs. Pot-Bellied Pigs and More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe Friday 6/3/11

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Every Friday, attorney Joe Escalante answers legal questions for free on the LegalZoom Facebook Page. Did you miss last week’s Free Joe Friday? Don’t worry. We’ve got it all right here.

Gracie: What I want to know is what type of designed items should be patent and what should be copyright?

Joe Escalante: Somewhere between the patent and the copyright lies the “design patent.” in general, it offers protections for the non functional artistic expressions that may be part of a product design.
Copyrights protect expressions of ideas, like drawings, that exist apart from any “product” or manufactured article.
You would copyright a picture of a chair to prevent people from making copies of that picture, but if the chair had a unique and innovative design, you would get a design patent to prevent others from producing chairs based on your picture of the chair

Tiffany: you let a landlord/owner know about repairs that need to be made…can they threaten you evreytime and tell you to move

Joe Escalante: It is your duty to tell the landlord about problems with rented property. That’s how they maintain their investment. Evicting for reasonable notice of such things would be a “retaliatory eviction” and it’s illegal in all 57 states governed by our fearless leader.

Pauline: If u have old tickets how long before they are let go? Is there such a thing?

Joe Escalante: This varies from place to place.There is really no statute of limitations. Generally, a statute of limitations is enacted to protect people from being charges with a crime so long after it happened that they wouldn’t be able to gather witnesses, etc. To put together a defense.

A traffic ticket is the equivalent of the state “charging” you so the SOL doesn’t apply. On the bench I’ve ruled on a few traffic tickets that were 10 or more years old.

Usually they involve a “failure to appear” which is never going away.

Matthew: At what age can someone own a company -18? 21?

Joe Escalante: The problem is that in most parts of the world, a person under 18 cannot enter into a binding contract so most jurisdictions do not allow minors to do things like incorporating.

Any child can start a business. But to sign a lease or enter into a binding contract with someone you will need your mommy.

Christian: Is it better to stop paying a timeshare and let them forclose or try to file bankruptcy and see if that would help to keep making payments.

Joe Escalante: Sorry Christian, I’d have to look at your whole situation to advise you on such a serious topic. Bankruptcy and foreclosures both have many downsides

Vrtreena: Hi, I have a question. I’m in the process of designing graphics for my site, company, and clothing. How do I go about protecting my work for all? Would I need separate trademarks, etc. for each design or would one be all inclusive? I’m frazzled because I want to know exactly what I need to do (preferably before I get started lol.)

Joe Escalante: Good question because a trademark for a shirt does not protect you for a hat, they are two different categories. I would read all the FAQs at the patent and trademark office’s website, concentrating on the info for trademark categories.

Then I would get one trademark for the category I’m going to be working in the most first. Then I’d figure out how much i would need to spend if I wanted trademark protection in other categories. I would ad this protection as I could afford it and/or felt I needed it.

For more info search my podcasts for, or call the show and we can go to town on this topic. It’s our specialty.

Danielle: My Grandpa died last year in Missouri. My uncle was supposed to be handling the estate and said he would split my deceased dad’s half among my siblings and me. We haven’t heard anything from him. How do we check on this and find out if he’s done anything. He’s always been difficult to get ahold of. Is there a way to check with the courts to see if anything has been done with the estate?

Joe Escalante: Go to the probate court in the county where you he died. Try to get a copy of the will if there was one. It should be a public document. If not, get whatever paperwork the court has in connection with the disposition of the property in the estate, and go to your uncle’s house and see if he’s in there , or if it smells funny.

Carlos: How do I acquire the rights to use fonts?

Joe Escalante: Rights to use fonts are generally acquired under a license. There is probably a license agreement that you clicked “yes” to when you turned on your computer for the first time.

If you checked the language in these licenses you might find that they may limit things like “commercial uses.”

One never really owns fonts you “buy,” you’re really just “using” them. When you buy a cd of fonts, or download them, there’s always a limiting license agreement.

There are sites that purport to have free fonts with unlimited uses, but who knows where they get them.

Tammy: In my divorce settlement I was given an owelty lien to ensure that my X would pay me my portion of the house. The date he was supposed to pay me has come & gone and I haven’t seen a dime. Can I now force the sale of the house to get my $ & name off the loan since he’s not in compliance with the court order?

Joe Escalante: That would be a “forced partition sale.” I would petition the court to authorize that in your case.

Ja’Nise: I’m trying to file for divorce, is there a fee to file and is there a separate fee to file for child support too?

Joe Escalante: There are fees and court costs for just about everything but you can apply for a waiver based on need. I see these granted all the time, even for weird people demanding jury trials for nonsense litigation. You shouldn’t have a problem getting one if you are of low income.

Fred: If I use a piece of art that is licensed under the creative commons license in a book I am writing, can I still retain copyright on my material in the book, or does using the artwork force the entire book to be under the creative commons license?

Joe Escalante: As long as you don’t affirmatively donate your work to that creative commons thing, you will still own and control 100% of your book. Of course others can use those cc images, but arguably not your “copies” of them.

To discuss further, call my show, it’s on right now at

Brandi: I live in SC, I have a mini pot bellied pig and my HOA is trying to force me to get rid of her. I have proof they made the decision 2 months before i had a meeting then i was denied an appeal. At first they said she was livestock and now they are saying she is undesirable. There are no complaints about her with Animal Control and she is completely legal in my county and State and with Zoning. It’s hard to find a lawyer who will fight an HOA, any suggestions?

Joe Escalante: If you pay a lawyer enough they will take the case. It might be expensive though and with the price of bacon being what it is I see some kind of tragic Gift Of The Magi dilemma in your future. However, I think it’s worth a fight. If your HOA agreement allows pets, and doesn’t carve out pigs specifically, it could be very risky for them to deprive you of a place to live over this.

Ada: When should a business be trademarked?

Joe Escalante: As soon as a business is selling a product or service through “interstate commerce” it is eligible for trademark protection. It may also be eligible with a mere “intent” to use.

Should the business get one right away? It’s always prudent but whether it’s worth the expense takes a fair amount of analysis of the particular situation. But if you cam afford it, do it for at least one of your products.

Read legalzoom’s info on it. They do a great job helping you get the difficult forms right the first time.

LegalZoom: Hi Ada, Check out our trademark articles here: and more info on the trademark process here: Let us know if you have any questions!

Holly: Roommate stole my controlled perscription medication. I reported it to the police. What will he be charged with and what kind of punishment is he looking at. He has never been in trouble before. If he gives it back can I drop the charges or do they stay?

Joe Escalante: This varies greatly fromestate to state but they would probably get him for stuff like “conversion” and “possession of a controlled substance.”

In California we don’t have room in our prisons for first time offenders like this so my guess is he’d get probation, a year of drug classes, and some chain gang or cal trans duty.

Mathew: Joe, I am being sued for 3 debts that are not mine. I have asked the other party to provide proof via a legal signature etc. All they have given me was bills with my name and address. Ironically, I have an account with 2 of the 3 creditors with a different account number which are in good standing. What are my rights. I have placed a fraud alert on my credit reports and have contacted the BBB about this collection firm. They have not responded to the BBB, instead I received a summons to court. I filed my initial answer saying that these debts are not mine. I have recently received a summons for a hearing… I can’t afford an attorney, what should I do to defend myself? The amount with fees is approx $2,100! Thank you in advance!

Joe Escalante: You’re a victim of identity theft. Do what you can. Stay vigilant. Credit collectors don’t care about the BBB. It means nothing to them. Go to Read what he says about debt collection and listen to his radio show. He’s great on this topic, there are state agencies you can complain to about collection thugs, but the BBB ain’t one of them.

Barb: Person brought me into a business 3 yrs ago. I’ve done 75% of the work since. ALL the business name, bank accounts, contracts with vendors, etc are in my name. He has some emails discussing terms of a partnership, but he has never produced a partnership agreement in spite of my repeated requests. He wants to split and take everything because he “started” it. I have $25K out of pocket vs. his $3K. How important are the emails in a dispute?

Joe Escalante: The emails would be evidence of a contract if both parties were acting as if there were a contract under similar terms. If the the emails say one thing, and the party trying to enforce the terms in the email is acting in a different way, the emails mean a lot less. You need a lawyer. Check out “attorney connect” on legalzoom to find one in your area.

LegalZoom: Here’s a link to Attorney Connect, Barb:

Misael: Hello Joe,
I need to know what to do if I still haven’t received my 10-99 to file taxes. I have been trying for months now & don’t know what to do anymore.

Joe Escalante: That is a tax question my dear. You have to consult a tax pro for those. Try, oh I forgot, they don’t have one. We’re so blessed.

Pam: Hello, if I want to open a solo massage therapy business and I am also an artist, can both activities be combined in one business name? Is sole proprietor or LLC best if so?

Joe Escalante: You can do that. It’s creepy, but you can do that. Depending on what state you incorporate in and what the minimum tax liabilities are, I usually advise people to start out with a sole proprietorship and some insurance an then follow the advice of your tax lady to see whether to incorporate when you start making money.

LegalZoom: That’s a wrap for Free Joe Friday! Thanks for joining us, and of course a big thanks to Barely Legal Radio w/ Joe Escalante for sharing his legal know-how. Have a great weekend and don’t forget to enter our iPad giveaway!

Get more info and all the details and fine print about Free Joe Fridays. And join us on Facebook next Friday at 10am PT for more Free Joe!

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June 7th, 2011 at 5:19 am