Best Practices in Protecting and Enforcing Trademarks, Copyrights, and Other Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property may well be a franchise system's most important asset. The forms of intellectual property most commonly involved in franchising are trademarks, service marks, trade dress, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. Franchisors rely on the different forms of intellectual property to varying degrees depending on the specific nature of their businesses, and the success of a franchise system is often directly related to the overall strength of its intellectual property portfolio. Moreover, because the value of intellectual property is directly related to brand awareness and the accompanying goodwill, the strength of a franchisor's intellectual property portfolio is directly related to the strength of the franchise system. Franchisors should identify all of their intellectual property assets; determine the most appropriate means of safeguarding those assets; and implement sound policies to ensure that all intellectual property retains its value and is, and remains, protected from infringement. This article describes the various forms of intellectual property that are typically implicated in franchise operations and offers recommendations for best practices that franchisors can implement to protect those assets and ensure that they remain valuable.