FRANCHISING & DISTRIBUTION
Our internationally recognized team helps clients create business opportunities, develop highly marketable brands, protect and defend their position in the market, and grow their business territory.
The franchising industry is dramatically shifting from domestic growth to international development. And we’re seeing an increase in large multi-unit and area developers. Our focus is, and always will be, on helping clients make smart/strategic decisions that enable them to grow and protect their businesses while also taking advantage of trends that further their business objectives.
We have deep understanding and experience in helping clients navigate every phase of the franchising process, from start-up and business concept refinement through business launch and international expansion, and we’ve got an extensive track record of successfully litigating matters on behalf of franchise systems, domestically and internationally.
Hundreds of franchise systems in more than 85 countries throughout the world rely on us for everything from global expansion and brand development/protection strategies, to licensing and distribution issues, and “bet the company” litigation. For the past two years, U.S. News/Best Lawyers has honored us as “Law Firm of the Year” for franchising!
We provide top-notch client service and comprehensive, cost-effective solutions to address your most complex business issues.
Who we work with
- Retailers and distributors
- Learning centers and fitness centers
- Hotels and resorts
- Luxury brands
- Represented Au Bon Pain in negotiation with a PE fund in its acquisition of foreign master franchisee
- Provided franchise law diligence and advice for the $36 million private equity investment of Falconhead Capital in Rita's Italian Ice and represented Rita’s from its founding until the second round of PE investment
- Represented Wyndham Hotel Group (then Cendant) in the acquisition of Ramada Hotel brand international franchise rights (about 250 hotels)
- Represented School of Rock in sale to a private equity group, and provided continued representation during its ownership by PE group; we also represented the same PE group on diligence related to a child care service franchisor
International Dispute Resolution Cases
- Represent the Republic of Turkey in defense of claim of misappropriation of real estate investment trust before the International Centre for Settlement of Investor Disputes venued in Paris.
- Represent an intellectual property licensor and lessor of robotics against a Brazilian company before the International Center for Dispute Resolution in New York.
- Represented the Republic of Turkey in defense of claim of wrongful termination of a license to operate a power plant before the International Court of Commerce venued in Geneva.
- Obtained multi-million dollar judgment against Asia-Pacific restaurant master franchisee and its guarantors for breach of a multi-territory master franchise agreement. Contract breach due to non-payment of royalties, advertising fees, minimum fees, and other fees over a three year period. Arbitrated before the American Arbitration Association under its international rules.
- Obtained million dollar settlement for restaurant franchisor in Japanese master franchise agreement buy-out/termination, following multi-day negotiations and mediation.
- Successfully defended restaurant franchisor against fraud claims by foreign master franchisee. Overseas action was dismissed after we filed suit in Texas to compel arbitration and the court ordered arbitration.
- Represented U.S. patent holder and trademark licensor against Brazilian company before the International Centre for Dispute Resolution in New York City.
- Lakes Gas Co v. Fencl Oil & L.P. Co., Inc., et al. (N.D.Iowa) Secured a unanimous $2.7 million jury verdict in contract action involving propane distribution on behalf of Lakes Gas Company.
- Pinnacle Pizza Co. v. Little Caesar Enterprises (D.S.D.) Obtained summary judgment in favor of pizza franchisor Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc. in a copyright and trademark infringement dispute. Successfully represented Little Caesar Enterprises on appeal affirming the district court's decision.
- Monster Cable Products, Inc. v. Monster Mini Golf, LLC (E.D. Cal.) Defended franchisor of Monster mini-golf course concept and one of its franchisees in federal trademark infringement and unfair competition case brought by Monster Cable, Inc. claiming that its various MONSTER trademarks were being infringed. Monster Cable claimed it had accumulated a portfolio of licenses and trademark rights to use the word “Monster” in connection with various business applications. Settled on favorable terms.
- DeGiovanni v. Jani-King (D. Mass.) Myers v. Jani-King (E.D. Pa.) Class action alleging violation of state wage payment laws, misclassification of franchisees as employees, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. Additional issues include enforcement of forum selection clause, choice of law clause, and inherent “fairness” of royalty and other fees disclosed in FDD and contained in franchise agreement.
- Huntington Learning Centers, Inc. v. The Education Gateway, Inc. (C.D. Cal.) Action to enforce terms of confidentiality agreement and breach of franchise agreement arising from alleged non-payment of royalties; default obtained against former franchisee.
- Barkan v. Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. (D.R.I.) Represented Dunkin Brands related to $13,000,000 fraud and breach of contract claims by former franchisee. Jury trial in December 2009 ended in mistrial, and retrial in January 2010 ended in directed verdict for franchisor. Appeal to First Circuit is anticipated.
- GHN, Inc. v. Volvo Cars of North America (San Bernardino Cty. Super. Ct.) Represented automobile franchisor in lawsuit alleging that it breached agreement and defrauded dealer in connection with mandatory facility improvements, allegedly rendering the dealer less profitable. Mediated to favorable conclusion.
- Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Wilhelm & Associates, Inc. (C.D. Cal.) Defended automobile company in lawsuit alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, conspiracy, and unfair business practices in connection with decision by Ford Motor Credit Corporation to cease providing financing to Mazda dealers concurrent with automobile industry fiscal crisis. Obtained dismissal of all claims except fraud; case settled on extremely favorable terms.
- Kiddie Academy Domestic Franchising LLC v. Faith Enterprises DC, LLC (D. Md.) Defended multi-million dollar fraud and breach of contract claims by franchisee. Summary judgment in favor of franchisor on all claims.
- Cold Stone Creamery, Inc. v. P&C Creamery (D. Mass.) Represented Cold Stone Creamery in an action to enforce franchise termination and post-term covenant. Franchisee filed for bankruptcy upon franchisor’s filing of complaint. Also, represented franchisor in related adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court and obtained preliminary injunctive relief shutting down location and enforcing post-term covenants.
- Manhattan Bagel of Northeast, Inc. v. Manhattan Bagel Co. (N.J. Super.) Represented Manhattan Bagel Co. after franchisees claimed breach of contract due to changes in the franchise system and lack of franchisor support. Franchisor compelled arbitration and was awarded entire amount sought for past and future royalties. Franchisees filed bankruptcy during the proceeding, and franchisor successfully objected to a discharge.
- Meade v. Essential Brands (D.N.J.) Represented Essential Brands in successfully obtaining motion to dismiss RICO, securities law and franchise law claims.
- Lakes Gas Co. v. Clark Oil Trading Co., (D. Kan.) Successful settlement of multimillion dollar propane conversion case on behalf of Lakes Gas Co.
Rankings & Honors
- For the second consecutive year, U.S. News/Best Lawyers has named Nixon Peabody “Law Firm of the Year” in Franchise Law (2011–2012 and 2012–2013)
- Chambers USA
- Chambers Global
- Franchise Times “Legal Eagles 2012”
Check out our Franchise Blog—the place to go for all things franchise in the U.S. and around the globe!
- Franchisors Should Stay Out of Franchisee Personnel Management
The Legal Intelligencer | September 26, 2014
New York City partner and leader of the Franchise & Distribution practice Craig Tractenberg and Los Angeles Labor & Employment associate Michael Curtis authored this column on circumstances where a franchisor may be liable for alleged employment law violations.
- NLRB Considering New Standards for Joint-Employer Status
Compliance Week | September 3, 2014
Providence Labor & Employment partner Andrew Prescott and New York City partner and leader of the firm’s Franchising & Distribution practice Craig Tractenberg provide commentary on possible new standards from the National Labor Relations Board regarding two separate employers deemed as “joint employers.”
- Minimum-Wage Increase Attacks Advantages of Franchising
The Legal Intelligencer | July 25, 2014
New York City partner and leader of the Franchise & Distribution practice Craig Tractenberg discusses efforts by the International Franchise Association (IFA) and five franchisees seeking to block a law to increase Seattle's minimum wage given its potential impact on the franchise method of doing business.