Originally posted 2011-08-01 21:56:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Overlawyered reports that a Circuit Court has suggested there could be cases where franchisees can pick and choose the ingredients on a franchise restaurant’s menu:
“A discrimination lawsuit filed by a Muslim Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee who was not allowed to renew his contract with the chain because of a refusal to sell pork products can proceed, a U.S. appeals court ruled Tuesday[,]” [according to Reuters]. For many years the donut chain had permitted Walid Elkhatib to refrain from including bacon, sausage or pork in breakfast sandwich offerings, because of religious scruples, but in 2002 it insisted that he carry the line with meat included, and he sued on religious-discrimination grounds. According to the coverage, Circuit judge Ilana Diamond Rovner apparently found it significant that the donut chain had allowed some franchisees in the area not to carry the breakfast sandwiches, for reasons that included, e.g., limited space. It sounds, though, as if the deal that Elkhatib wished to carry forward was somewhat different: he wanted to go ahead and keep selling the sandwiches without putting meat in them, which would presumably have implications for what franchising strategists call the consistency of the customer experience.
There could be complicating factors present — see the comments at the post — but the idea that the requirements of a trademark licensing program can be tossed based on the spiritual or other motivation of the licensee could be a scary development for licensors.
UPDATE: Or not.