Franchising & Distribution

We provide unparalleled client service and comprehensive, cost-effective legal counsel to help clients generate new business, develop recognizable brands and protect and defend their market position.

Our approach

As the franchising and distribution industry continues to shift from domestic growth to international development, we help clients make strategic decisions that advance and protect their businesses and leverage trends that further business objectives. We have extensive first-hand knowledge and experience navigating every phase of the franchising process from startup and business concept refinement to business launch and international expansion. Our record of successfully litigating matters includes representing franchise systems domestically and internationally.

Hundreds of franchise systems across industries in more than 90 countries have engaged us on matters, including global expansion, brand development and protection strategies, licensing and distribution issues and “bet the company” litigation. Our success is well-recognized throughout the industry by Chambers USA, Chambers Global and U.S. News/Best Lawyers, which has named us “Law Firm of the Year” four times.

Who We Work With

We represent a broad collection of domestic and international entities, including restaurants, learning centers, health, wellness and fitness centers, hotels and resorts, luxury brands and retailers and wholesalers and distributors from the automotive, beverage and food industries.

Representative Experience

  • 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.

Lack of capital, legislative restrictions may impede franchisees in 2022

Restaurant Dive | November 08, 2021

This article, focusing on franchising trends and challenges as the restaurant industry heads into 2022, extensively quotes Franchising & Distribution team co-leader and Washington, DC Corporate partner Keri McWilliams for her outlook on increased investment in franchises as a result of rising diner demand and more affordable real estate options. Keri also emphasizes the importance for small and mid-sized franchisees to ensure they’re generating revenue not based solely on in-person and sit-down dining.

My Story: Kendal H. Tyre Jr.

Washington Business Journal | November 25, 2020

Washington, D.C. Corporate partner and Franchising & Distribution co-leader Kendal Tyre wrote this column for a series featuring area business executives sharing their diverse personal and professional backgrounds and their journeys that have made them who they are. Kendal, who has traced his family to the first generation of enslaved Africans brought to Virginia, instills in his children that they are descended from 10 generations of Black Americans who helped build this country, despite the odds.

Special Considerations for Restaurants and Franchised Businesses Under the CARES Act

Modern Restaurant Management | April 29, 2020

Franchising & Distribution co-leader Keri McWilliams in Washington, DC, and Corporate associate Wes Gangi in Chicago contributed this article. Based on a recent client alert, the article covers relief programs available to the restaurants industry, food retailers, and franchisees under the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program.

Will COVID-19 usher in permanent restaurant paid sick leave benefits?

Restaurant Dive | March 17, 2020

Washington, DC, Franchise & Distribution partner Keri McWilliams provides extensive third-party commentary in this article about whether the COVID-19 crisis could usher in permanent paid sick leave for restaurant employees.


Kendal H. Tyre

Co-leader, Franchising & Distribution


Phone: 202-585-8368

Keri A. McWilliams

Co-leader, Franchising & Distribution


Phone: 202-585-8770

Steven B. Feirman



Phone: 202-585-8395

  • U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” 2020 ranked as National Tier One in: Appellate Practice, Commercial Litigation, Corporate Law, Employment Law—Management, Energy Law, Franchise Law, Health Care Law, Labor Law—Management, Litigation—Construction, Litigation—Labor & Employment, Litigation—Real Estate, Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions—Defendants, Patent Law, Public Finance Law, Real Estate Law, Securities Regulation, Tax Law
  • In addition, many Nixon Peabody practices received U.S. News/Best Lawyers Tier 1 rankings at the regional level in the following geographies: Albany, NY; Boston; Buffalo; Chicago; Long Island; Los Angeles; Manchester, NH; New York City; Providence, RI; Rochester, NY; San Francisco; and Washington, DC.
  • U.S. News/Best Lawyers—Named “Law Firm of the Year” in Franchise Law (2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017)
  • Chambers USA (2015–2018)
  • Chambers Global (2015–2019)—Nixon Peabody’s franchise practice received global recognition; seven Nixon Peabody attorneys recognized as “Leaders in their Field”
  • Franchise Times “Legal Eagles” (2016–2019)
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