In a recent blog post we discussed the franchise business model and it’s rapid growth in Mongolia. In a new three-part article series, we will dive deeper into franchise agreements in Mongolia and look at intellectual property, which is one of the most important aspects of a franchise system, and its importance.
Intellectual property law and business law have many areas that overlap. Franchising, in particular, is a unique business model, with the franchisor’s intellectual property at its core.
As such, intellectual property is one of the most important elements of any franchise. Within the franchise agreement, one of the core assets and rights that franchisor will be granting to franchisees will be a license permitting a franchisee to utilize their intellectual property and, in turn, franchisor is declaring to a franchisee that franchisor owns the intellectual property and will protect and defend it. So, it is important for franchisor to make sure that they actually own and can protect intellectual property that they are purportedly licensing to franchisees. Especially, when entering into a franchise agreement with franchisee, who will operate in another country.
These days most people are familiar with the term “intellectual property”, but not everyone understands the differences between various types of it. Intellectual property may include trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, trade dress (i.e. the look, feel and distinctive elements of a franchise system, such as the interior design, layout and other visual aspects of a franchise location) and sometimes patents under which franchise businesses operate.
Trademarks are perhaps the most commonly recognized and well-known element of intellectual property. The Mongolia Law on Trademarks and Geographical Indications defines trademarks as expressions with distinction, which are used by legal entity or individual in order to distinguish their products or services from that of others. Trademarks can include business names, taglines, service names, logo designs and specific color or color combinations, etc. They are among the visual components of a franchise business.
Just because franchisor has used their trademark for many years it does not mean that trademark is legally protectable nor that they own it. First, franchisor needs to properly register their trademark with intellectual property authority. Secondly, if franchisor is entering into franchise agreement with franchisee, who will operate in another country, franchisor needs to register their trademark in the country where franchisee will operate as well. This way franchisor asserts their ownership of trademark and ensures protection of their trademark from other infringers (such as copycats and confusingly similar marks).