If Paris Hilton can trademark the phrase “That’s Hot,” why can’t Subway claim ownership of “footlong.” In fact, that’s exactly what the sandwich chain is doing. It is sending cease-and-desist letters to independent sandwich shops across the land warning them that, henceforth, use of the word “footlong” is strictly verboten by anyone but authorized Subway franchises. After all, it was Subway’s massively popular “$5 Footlong” campaign that put the company on the map. Subway has applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for an exclusive claim to the word. One hot dog stand owner in Florida said he was floored when he got the letter from Subway. He says he’s been calling his dogs “footlongs” since 1963. Subway responded by saying it will no longer target hot dog proprietors, but will still go after sandwich shops that use the word. Of course, resentful sandwich makers can always trademark their own expression: “That’s bulls**t.”
Who’s the boss? Are franchisees independent business people or are they really just corporate employees, and thus entitled to all the perks of full-time workers, like health benefits, 401(k) matching, sick days, and, good lord, a guaranteed minimum wage? Currently, franchisees are classified as independent contractors, but a court case in Boston has the potential to change that. A recent ruling found that Coverall North America, an office cleaning operation, was basically forcing new immigrants to fork over a $30,000 franchise fee just for the privilege of vacuuming carpets and cleaning toilets. The Coverall “franchisees” sued when they discovered they were working all night and still not making any money. The judge found that these franchisees were essentially employees and not independent contractors, as franchisees are typically categorized. The case is currently being appealed, but it could have serious ramifications for every single franchise operator. Lawyers are telling franchisers to stay away from Massachusetts until the case is settled.
Another reason to quit Facebook. For a company that’s supposed to be at the forefront of social media, Dunkin’ Donuts sure blew this one. The donut chain recently ran a national ad for its “free iced coffee day”. The only problem was the free coffee was only available in 13 markets. Ok, that’s kind of deceitful. But the real story is how its loyal customers reacted. They took to Facebook and Twitter to trash the company in a very public fashion. One message left on Dunkin’ Donuts’ Facebook page seemed to capture the general sentiment: “What happened to free iced coffee day? You advertised and everything…. you LIED.” And this is why corporate America is rushing to get on Facebook?