What is a franchisor’s intellectual property?

Usually a franchisor’s intellectual property consists of three elements. First the brand, second the documentation it produces and thirdly its technical knowledge and experience.

In terms of the brand the great majority of franchisors obtain a registered trade mark. It is generally important for the brand to be “registered” at the Trade Mark Registry because this gives added protection to the franchisor and its franchisees that somebody will not come along and claim that they own the brand with the result that franchisees have to rebrand.

In relation to the documentation prepared by the franchisor generally franchisors have copyright in that documentation. The most important document is the manual and usually franchisors put copyright notices on each page of the manual even though that is not technically necessary. The franchisors do not have to take any action to protect their copyright in this country – it arises automatically.

Thirdly, franchisors have knowhow/confidential information that they want to protect in relation to their system. Most of that know how is set out in the manual but it can be provided through seminars, technical bulletins and other sources. Know how is protected by imposing an obligation on franchisees to keep the know how confidential.