worldwise expansion

Franchise & Distribution Law


Domestic and international companies of all sizes turn to Dorsey for advice on strategic expansion opportunities and challenges. Our clients include franchisors in many industries, such as hotels, restaurants, services, automotive, retail, health, fitness, technology, children's services, and others. We also represent franchisee associations, suppliers and multi-unit and master franchisees. We represent clients in franchise disputes, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration and litigation. Dorsey’s national and international Franchise and Distribution Law practice provides franchise-specific knowledge for virtually any legal or business challenge worldwide, including:

  • Structuring franchise and distribution programs
  • Registration and disclosure
  • International franchising and distribution
  • Co-branding arrangements
  • Franchise finance services
  • E-commerce 
  • Litigation avoidance
  • Intellectual property
  • Franchise litigation and dispute resolution
  • Terminations and other relationship issues
  • Real estate
  • Licensing of technology including software


Representative Franchise Work

  • Represent hotel owners and major brands in negotiation and dispute resolution involving management and franchise relationships.
  • Represented a U.S. based franchisor, The Little Gym International, Inc., in registration to sell master franchises in the People’s Republic of China. This representation included setting up a Chinese joint venture with the prospective Chinese master franchisee to operate initial units in China, and preparing all necessary China entity documents, China joint venture documents, and China franchise disclosure documents.
  • Represent U.S. and foreign franchisors and master franchisees in structuring and negotiating inbound and outbound international franchises.
  • Serve as international franchise counsel for franchised chains worldwide, including acting as world-wide trademark counsel.
  • Served as general franchise counsel for franchised chains in pizza, coffee, casual dining, breakfast, QSR chicken, sandwich, and provided distribution and regulatory compliance advice.
  • Serves as general and special counsel to multi-unit franchisees, developers, and area managers.

Representative Franchise Litigation

  • Dorsey represented franchisor Papa John’s International Inc., and other defendants in Maria Agne v. Rain City Pizza, et. al, a consumer class action case filed in King County, Washington Superior Court alleging unlawful text message marketing under state and federal telemarketing laws. The complaint alleged damages in the amount of approximately $50 million. We successfully defended Papa John’s and the case settled.
  • Dorsey represented a franchisor financial advisory firm and one of its franchisees in a FINRA arbitration in California where a financial advisor asserted a multi-million dollar claim for among other things wrongful termination of the franchise agreement and defamation. The case was tried in an arbitration hearing lasting more than two weeks, concluding in February 2011. The decision was a complete victory for the financial advisory firm and the franchisee compliance supervisor; the claimant collected nothing.


US News Best Lawyers 2019 Leading Franchise Law Firm

US News Best Lawyers 2022 Top Antitrust Litigation Law Firm

US News Best Lawyers 2021 Tier 1 Corporate Law Firm

US News Best Lawyers 2021 Tier 1 Securities-Capital Markets Practice

Dorsey Top US Trademark Firm-WTR 2022

Best Lawyers Tier 1 Trademark & IP Litigation 2019

US News Best Lawyers 2022 Leading Tax Law Firm

US News Best Lawyers 2022 Leading Securities Regulation Law Firm

BTI Client Service A-Team 2022

Among 27 Highly Recommended Law Firms BTI Consulting Group 2019


Steven Wells
Practice Group Chair

Industries & Practices

  • Antitrust & Competition Law
  • Cooperative Law
  • Intellectual Property Litigation
  • Technology Commerce
  • Trademark, Copyright + Advertising