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Should a Franchised Business Register Its Trade Marks?

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If you are considering franchising your business, brand protection is vital. Franchising involves giving another party the right to use your business’ branding, systems, products, and services for a specified duration. To manage the franchisee’s use of your business’ branding, it is important that you have adequate legal protections in place. One way you can protect your business’ brand is by registering its trade marks. This article will explain why registering trade marks is important for franchised brands. 

What is a Trade Mark?

A trade mark is a sign unique to a business. These can include a business’:

  • name; 
  • logo; or
  • slogan.

These essential elements form a brand’s identity and allow customers to recognise a particular business. Trade mark owners can protect their registered trade marks from use by other parties. Registration protects your brand’s reputation against dilution and misuse. 

Why is Trade Mark Registration Important When Franchising?

The value of a business is often associated with your branding in the eyes of your customer base. The nature of franchising is to allow others to use your business’ systems, products and services. Many franchisors also license franchisees to use their branding, especially in business format franchising. Ultimately, as a franchisor, your brand is one of your most essential assets, and brand recognition plays a vital role in the success of your franchise network. 

If you are a franchisor and a trade mark owner, you can protect your brand from misuse by other parties, including your franchisees. Registering your trade marks may also prevent ex-franchisees from misusing your branding and will allow you to seek legal recourse if they do. For example, if an ex-franchisee continues using your trade mark without permission once the franchise agreement has ended, you can address this infringement.

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Brand Protection in the Franchise Agreement

In many franchise relationships, the franchisee obtains the rights to use the franchisor’s trade marks and branding when they sign the franchise agreement. In addition to registering their trade marks, franchisors should also have a well-crafted franchise agreement. 

The agreement governs the franchisor-franchisee relationship. As a franchisor, you should:

  • set out exactly how the franchisee can use your trade mark; and 
  • specify the franchisee’s rights to use it. 

You should set explicit quality standards within your franchise agreement and detail these standards within your franchise operations manual. This way, franchisees should understand how they can and cannot use your branding. As the franchise agreement is a vital document, franchisors should seek legal assistance when drafting it to ensure robust brand protection. 

Throughout the franchise relationship, you should continually monitor how franchisees use your trade marks.

How to Register Your Franchised Brand’s Trade Mark

1. Conduct a Search 

Before applying for a trade mark, you need to conduct a thorough search to check no other businesses are operating under your brand name or have registered your logo or slogan. 

You should search the Intellectual Property Office’s (‘IPO’) trade mark database to see whether somebody else or another business has already registered it. If you find that a business owns the trade mark you wanted to register, you likely have to stop using the trade mark. Otherwise, you risk facing legal action for trade mark infringement. 

You should also bear in mind that not all marks can be registered. For example, a trade mark cannot be generic or offensive.

2. Classify the Trade Mark

You will need to select relevant classes when applying to register your trade mark. Using the classification system, you will specify the types of goods and services you will use the trade mark for. There are many different classifications available. Select all that apply, including areas you plan for your franchised business’ trade marks to expand into. 

3. Apply For Registration 

Then, you will apply for your trade mark through the IPO. The application comes at a cost. The cost varies depending on the amount of classes you select. Nevertheless, registered trade marks remain protected for ten years, with the option to renew the registration up to 6 months before expiration. 

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Trade Mark Essentials

LegalVision’s Trade Mark Essentials Guide provides valuable information for any business looking to register or enforce a trade mark.

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Key Takeaways

Franchisors should seek registration of their business’ trade marks. This is because your branding plays a crucial role in the success of your overall franchise network. Therefore, it is in your interests to ensure your brand recognition can continue to develop undisturbed and that you have clear avenues to pursue if your trade mark is misused. 

You can protect your brand within your franchise by registering your trade marks and crafting a robust franchise agreement. Through this contract, you can limit the franchisee’s rights to use your trade marks past the end of the franchise agreement. You should also set clear quality standards for franchisees. As franchisees are using your branding, you want to ensure that they only provide high-quality goods, services, and customer experience. 

If you need help protecting your franchised brand and registering trade marks, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

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