Identify the perfect franchise for you! Take our short quiz Find your franchise match!
Identify the perfect franchise for you! Take our short quiz Find your franchise match!

Best Practices in Protecting and Enforcing Trademarks, Copyrights and other IP

Trademarks, copyrighted works, trade secrets and proprietary business information form the core of any franchise system, and are frequently a company’s most valuable assets. Trademarks, including service marks, logos, slogans and trade dress, define the brand identity as presented to the public. The “behind the scenes” business know-how on which the system is built and implemented by franchisees is embodied in a variety of copyrighted and proprietary works – operations manuals, proprietary processes, recipes and formulas, custom software, advertising copy to name a few.

Obtaining, maintaining and enforcing legal protections for these intellectual property interestsisof critical importance to all franchise operations. Following are some best practices to maximize your legal protection.

  • Register all trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office for all goods and services your business offers.
  • Monitor your trademarks as used on the Internet, in competitors’ advertisements, in publications and other media, and take prompt enforcement action against unauthorized users.
  • Register domain names for all of your trademarks, including common misspellings and variations, and registerdomain names if available for names describing the products and services your business offers.
  • Place copyright notices on manuals, customized software and other proprietary business materials.
  • File copyright registrations with the U.S. Copyright Office for important works that are likely to be copied by competitors.
  • Place prominent confidentiality notices on important internal business documents, operations manuals, and other proprietary information.
  • Have your key officers and employees, as well as franchisees and their managers, sign confidentiality and non-compete agreements.
  • Obtain written work for hire / copyright assignment agreements from all outside firms such as software developers, consultants, advertising agencies and design firms that produce any creative works for your business.

The last point is commonly overlooked, but it is a practice that every business must take. If you adopt only one practice as a result of reading this article, it should be this. Without written work for hire / copyright assignment agreements, your business will not have ownership of the copyrights to creative works your company has hired outside firms to produce. You will instead have only limited rights to use the works, and the outside firm will retain rights to use the works for others, including your competitors.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a good starting point to evaluate your current procedures. Franchisors that follow these practices will have taken the basic steps needed to secure legal protection for key intellectual property assets.

- James A. Wahl Monroe Moxness Berg P.A.

Your Customers Change, Do You?

Have you ever compared the thought processes of today's consumer and yesteryear's consumer?

How Much Do You Have to Spend?

Whether you’re purchasing a whopper from Burger King or joining the Burger King franchise system, the old mantra holds true: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. When you first get started running a franchise you need to pay a fee to allow you to enter into that franchise. These fees are the largest fees that you will normally pay a franchisor and typically range between $5,000 and $1,000,000 depending on the franchise. The franchisor charges this fee as a way to recoup the costs of expanding the franchise and to continue to grow. From a franchisee perspective, this is a major outlay and can take a long time to make back, but is a necessary step. Aspiring business owners must understand how much capital is available to them so they can ascertain how much they can afford. The cash you have at your disposal is known as liquidity, and there are numerous ways to increase your liquidity above the balance in your bank account. As a result, many people don’t realize how much capital they actually can use for investments, like launching a franchise branch. We’ll run through some of those methods below.

Profiling the Best Burger Chains in America

Once upon a time, Americans had two options to alleviate their beef binging desires: visit a fast food jointor go to a traditionalsit-down restaurant. The former often offered sub-par meals, while the latter required too much of a commitment of both time and money. The people demanded a happy medium, where they could be chowing down on quality eats within minutes of ordering.