In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the franchise model will play an important role in economic recovery, helping individuals to take their first steps into business ownership, presenting opportunities to established operators to grow their portfolios and enabling brand owners to expand and regain or grow their market share. This podcast explores the key legal considerations for any business which is preparing to franchise.
The IP Enterprise Court recently considered the impact of the EU Trade Secrets Directive on the law of breach of confidence – in particular, in the context of ex-employees who sought to franchise their services. The case confirms the limited impact of the directive on the pre-existing law on breach of confidence. However, it also indicates that the directive can be useful in helping to tease out the distinctions between confidential and non-confidential information.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the government has stated that new tools will be added to the UK insolvency framework, including a moratorium for companies to give them "breathing space from creditors enforcing their debts while they seek a rescue or restructure". The government is also expected to introduce a moratorium provision, introduce an exclusion of ipso facto clauses and suspend temporarily wrongful trading provisions. This article considers what the changes would mean for franchisors.
In the wake of the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 crisis, a number of high-profile brands in the leisure and hospitality sectors have entered or will soon enter into formal insolvency processes. Although failure rates among franchises are typically lower than among non-franchised businesses, franchising will not be immune to this trend. It is therefore important that franchisors and suppliers ensure that they have the contractual rights to act quickly and effectively if the need arises.
In 2019 the new EU Trademarks Directive was implemented in the United Kingdom. As part of this implementation, numerous changes were made to the licensing provisions of the Trademarks Act. This article sets out the changes which are most significant for franchisors, including limited direct enforcement rights for non-exclusive licensees and enhanced direct enforcement rights for exclusive licensees.
There is no one-size-fits-all plan for how businesses should respond to the COVID-19 crisis. However, this article provides some guidance for businesses which are primarily consumer focused and use franchise and distribution networks to sell their products and services in order to help them to respond to the challenges ahead and hopefully even emerge on a stronger footing than before.
A British education is internationally regarded as the gold standard, as reflected in the dominance of British international schools. Done correctly, the execution of a school's international franchising strategy can become a core asset. However, the most appropriate structure must be determined at the outset, as restructuring an international licence is a complex, costly and time-consuming exercise.
The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) recently published a short, reassuring update about what happens to IP rights during the transition period following the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union. The UKIPO has assured that it will be business as usual, but there are some key points of which franchisors should take note.
Wrapchic, which fell into administration in 2019 after shareholders refused to lend further funds as it continued to make losses, is one of a number of recent casualties in the UK food and beverage sector. However, unlike some of the more high-profile casual dining brands that have suffered a similar fate, Wrapchic was almost entirely franchised and operated in the generally more resilient quick service restaurant segment of the sector. So why did it fail and what lessons can franchisors learn?
English law has traditionally resisted implying the obligation of good faith into commercial contracts, except in limited circumstances. However, in a growing line of authorities (of which two recent cases are particularly significant), the English courts have confirmed that a duty of good faith will be implied into certain types of agreement as a matter of law. This article considers the ramifications of these decisions for parties to this special category of commercial agreement, which includes franchise agreements.
In a recent case, the Court of Appeal considered whether a threat not to enter a contract could amount to economic duress, holding that it would not unless the threat was made in bad faith. While the decision provides useful and comforting guidance for franchisors, it also serves as a reminder to review contractual terms and processes and ensure that they are both robust and fair, as there is a fine line between protecting the integrity of the network and abusing a position of power.
Against the backdrop of a number of high-profile business failures in the UK retail sector, the government has issued a report on the insolvency regime, which will affect the operation of termination rights in supply agreements. This article considers the proposals and provides a best practice recommendation for recovering goods in the possession of a franchisee once they have entered some form of insolvency protection.
In a recent Court of Appeal case, a landlord was unsuccessful in its appeal against a first-instance decision that a 'non-reliance' clause in a lease had attempted to exclude liability for misrepresentation. The decision, which will have ramifications for franchise agreements, demonstrates that such clauses must be fair and reasonable and have regard to the circumstances which were or ought reasonably to have been known to or contemplated by the parties when the contract was made.
Franchisors expanding into the United Kingdom need a thorough knowledge of any UK rules and regulations which may affect them, particularly in a post-Brexit Britain. Understanding the risks and issues and managing those risks through effective structuring and enforceable legal contracts will enable international franchisors to reap the rewards of doing business in one of Europe's largest and most dynamic markets.
Four former Vision Express franchisees were recently successful in their claim against their franchisor, in which they alleged that they had been induced to enter into their franchise agreements on the basis of false information provided by a Vision Express employee. The case highlights the importance of ensuring that a franchisor's employees stay on message during the sales process and information which is provided to prospective franchisees is scrutinised to ensure its accuracy and relevance to the investment.
Franchise relationships are rarely life-long commitments; most will be for a fixed term with a right to renew. The renewal process provides an opportunity for both parties to re-assess and recalibrate the relationship, as well as to settle any issues before either renewing their vows or deciding to go their separate ways. This all makes good commercial and legal sense; however, it is surprisingly common that the renewal process is not always followed.
The recent KFC chicken supply crisis highlights the importance of supply chain management and illustrates how parties that rely on the functioning of a supply chain must protect themselves from a contractual and legal perspective. It also offers franchise businesses an opportunity to review the management and procurement of their supply chains, as well as the terms which govern their upstream relationships with third-party manufacturers and suppliers and their downstream relationships with franchisees.
The year 2017 was relatively quiet for franchise disputes in the English courts. Nevertheless, five cases involving franchise and distribution relationships provide some lessons for businesses. They highlight, among other things, the need for clear contractual provisions over ownership of customer data and the importance of businesses checking whether there are prior rights when seeking to register their mark.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond recently delivered the Autumn 2017 Budget, the first budget in the new annual tax policy-making cycle. Although there were no radical policy changes, some changes will affect the UK franchise business sector, particularly with regard to the tax treatment of royalties, corporate tax and the digital economy, environmental tax, value added tax and business rates.
A number of businesses which franchise will interact with the gig economy, particularly those which operate with a low entry threshold, such as contract cleaning and other service-based franchises. Both franchisors and franchisees in these sectors may have individuals working for them in this capacity, so they must be aware of existing issues and the regulations that will likely be introduced.