“Escape From Tomorrow,” one of the most controversial films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, has put copyright and trademark law, as well as the question of what constitutes parody, in the spotlight. The film reminds companies why it is important to protect their intellectual property: to prevent use (or misuse) by others.
Opportunistic behavior by franchisees, who use a natural disaster to unethically profit from a tragedy, can cause significant harm to a franchise system and its brand. A story of a motel franchisee charging rates that are 620% above its normal seasonal rates after Hurricane Sandy illustrates the public relations issue and the importance of dealing with such problems quickly and decisively.
One of the most common lawsuits in franchising involves the “holdover” franchisee. In these cases, the franchise agreement has either expired or it has been terminated. The holdover franchisee, however, continues to operate his or her business as though nothing has changed and continues to use the franchisor’s trademarks and trade dress. The recent case Century 21 Real Estate, LLC v. Destiny Real Estate Properties found that a holdover franchisee can be held liable for trademark counterfeiting, which means that potentially large punitive damage awards can be available against holdover franchisees.
A recent lawsuit filed by sandwich franchisor Capriotti’s underlines the importance of brand management for franchise companies. The franchisor sued its Las Vegas-based franchisee, seeking to terminate the franchise agreement in reaction to the franchisee’s co-advertising campaign with a strip club, featuring the tagline “a match made in Vegas heaven: boobs and Bobbies.”
The latest example of 80s influence on pop culture is Wendy’s recent resurrection of its “Where’s The Beef?” campaign. The renewal of the old campaign serves as a valuable reminder of the importance of maintaining your trademark registrations, even on older trademarks.
Report from Day 3 of the West Coast Franchise Expo