Kyle-Beth Hilfer, of Counsel at Collen IP, recently outlined 9 common legal risks restaurant owners face when marketing their businesses. Marketing is important in any industry, but no one should go into it without being prepared. Her list is a valuable read for anyone in the industry or looking to enter it. She highlights trademarks, ADA website accessibility, gift cards, sweepstakes, charity partnerships, social media and mobile marketing, privacy policies, 3rd party delivery/ordering services, and music all as potential trouble spots. We’ll go through them one by one here.
Trademarks: A restaurant should always trademark its name well before the restaurant launches, otherwise it may end up on the receiving end of a cease and desist order from a restaurant with prior rights.
ADA Website Accessibility: Be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or your restaurant may find itself at the center of a lawsuit. For example, class action attorneys are filing lawsuits for the failure of some restaurants fail to make their websites accessible to the blind.
Gift Cards: Laws regarding disclosures, dormancy/expiration provisions, fees, and unused cards varies from state to state regarding gift cards, and failure to comply can cause a headache for restaurant owners. Even if a restaurant relies on the third party to manage their gift card program, the restaurant can still be liable if that third party fails to follow the law.
Sweepstakes: Keeping prize promotion within the right structure can avoid illegal gambling charges, and this kind of promotion also can require taking steps to avoid consumer protection lawsuits. If you’re using hashtags on social media as part of your promotion campaign, it’s important to know that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is watching this kind of promotion closely, and could require appropriate disclosures related to your social media campaign.
Charity Partnerships: Partnering with charities is a great way to both promote your brand and do good for the community at the same time, as long as you do it the right way. Half of the US states regulate these kinds of commercial co-ventures, sometimes requiring registration and bonding.
Social Media and Mobile Marketing: Restaurants in this day and age need to develop social media policies for employees that meet FTC and state requirements around endorsements and testimonials. Content curation guidelines and proper licensing are also important to avoid copyright infringement, along with proper opt-in/opt-out options set up for email list outreach.
Music: If a restaurant is playing any kind of music, it needs to review license agreements to if has the right permissions. If that restaurant chooses to have live music, that may affect those license requirements.
To learn more about common industry needs around intellectual property and trademark law, follow Collen IP on Twitter.