This is the third part of our look at the uses of intellectual property in Mongolian franchises. You can find the first part here, and the second part here. We will discuss the use of licensing agreements as part of franchise IP management.
While in general, franchisors do own their intellectual property, this is not always strictly the case. In many franchise businesses, trademarks and other intellectual property elements may instead be owned by a parent company or even an affiliated company. In such cases, intellectual property is usually licensed from the legal entity that owns it to the franchisor, which then has the right to sell franchises and sub-license the use of intellectual property to the franchisees.
If the franchise agreement has been properly drafted, then this licensing/sub-licensing relationship between parent company or affiliated entity and the franchisor will be reflected in the wording of the agreement. There are quite a few places in a franchise agreement where special care must be given to properly set out who actually owns trademarks and other intellectual property if the franchisor itself is not their owner.
Pursuant to the Law on Trademarks and Geographical Indications, any licensing agreement is subject to state registration with intellectual property authority, otherwise such licensing agreement is deemed invalid.
Whenever someone uses, without permission, a trademark (sometimes even a trade dress) that is the same as or confusingly similar to that of a franchise system, that is a case of trademark infringement. It is becoming increasingly common to find the look, feel and design of one franchise business being copied elsewhere. In some of these cases, there is clearly an intent to pass off the copycat operation as a franchise.
A strong franchise system depends on a strong brand and must therefore protect its trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and trade dress. For these reasons, franchisors need to spend a lot of time, attention and money to maintain, improve and protect their intellectual property. Their franchisees, in turn, will benefit from a strong protection strategy, as it ensures the rights for which they have paid, over the stated term.