Originally posted 2011-08-01 21:56:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

DD logoOverlawyered 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.

By Ron Coleman

LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION blog author Ron Coleman is a member of Dhillon Law Group in their New York City and Montclair, New Jersey offices. He is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Law and Princeton University.

4 thoughts on “Franchisor nightmare?”
  1. In my opinion it is not racial but religious discrimination. By only sponsoring shops that sell pork they are showing favoritism to religions that allow pork and discrimination against religions that forbid pork and the favoritism amounts to discrimination. As a person who is forbidden pork, I resent the corporate policy. It is not only touching pork but the inhalation of pork fumes from cooking and the pork grease on everything I touch, not to mention making me deal with religious hippocrits who still eat pork and claim they are people of G-d, which is forbidden by my religion, we are not to associate with hippocrits, including the hipocracy of eating pork as a Jew, Muslim or Christian. It is very offensive that I have been subject to pork eaters in order to get a job. What is it about respect that they do not understand? Or is it that serving Lucifer by eating pork, means that they can not get by without doing it? I mean really how hard is it not to eat pork for the few hours per day a person is at work or at school? And how hard is it not to sell pork in public places? If people must eat pork they should do it only at home out of respect for others. When I drive by a BBQ and the pork fumes coat me or my car and children it offends me and violates my religion, but some dont want to respect this and that should be a crime. Your hippocritical thinking has forced many a religious person to deny their own faith for fear of losing their livly hood and the USA in particular should make this illegal. This is overdue in my opinion!

  2. As it happens, there is a Kosher Dunkin’ Donuts here in the Detroit Metro region. So I really don’t understand what the franchise’s issue is here–the cases would seem awfully similar.

  3. Is Tom Jones saying they should ban selling or eating pork in public places? Then they should also ban selling or eating beef, since there are religions that ban this. And they should ban selling or eating any meat, since that offends vegetarians. They should also ban dairy products, since vegans are offended by them. And ban broccoli and cauliflower, since I hate them and can’t even stand smelling them from a distance. Let’s be safe and ban all food; having everybody starve to death would just be the price we pay for a civilized society in which nobody is allowed to offend anybody else.

  4. As I read the article, it is not simply that they want to refrain from selling pork products (which would be fine), but that they want to sell products that normally would include pork, but not put the pork in them.

    From a customer standpoint, I think Dunkin Donuts is right–consistency is a significant part of the whole point of chain stores.

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