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Franchise Legal Players: Douglas R. Ferguson of Robinson Waters & O'Dorisio, P.C.
Franchise Legal Players: Douglas R. Ferguson of Robinson Waters & O'Dorisio, P.C.
1851 Interviews the Highest Profile Attorneys in Franchising for the 2018 Franchise Legal Player Awards

Name: Douglas R. Ferguson
Firm: Robinson Waters & O'Dorisio, P.C.
About Your Firm: RWO is a locally, owned, independent full-service business law firm.  RWO has been serving the Denver and Rocky Mountain region for over 40 years.  Our attorneys are experienced in the following practice areas: 

  • Business law — We provide knowledgeable advice and advocacy for a full range of business law issues, including formation matters, compliance and disputes.
  • Employment law — Our firm assists businesses, executives and other employees in all types of employment law matters, including discrimination, wrongful termination and compliance.
  • Litigation — For commercial conflicts, property disputes, white-collar defense cases and other types of litigation, our firm develops a thorough strategy to maximize the likelihood of a successful outcome.
  • Commercial real estate — We handle commercial real estate transactions and disputes for all types of businesses, as well as certain residential property issues.
  • Franchise law — We possess detailed knowledge of the laws pertaining to franchising and distribution, including licensing and trademark matters that affect domestic and international business.
  • Real Estate — Managing residential real estate concerns properly gives you and your family the ability to enjoy the full value of your property. We handle a full range of real estate matters, including transactions, boundary and title disputes, leases and eminent domain issues.
  • Medical malpractice defense — Our skilled litigators represent individual healthcare providers and institutions in a wide variety of medical malpractice claims.
  • Intellectual property — If you require counsel on any type of intellectual property matter, our firm will explain the relevant rules and work diligently to safeguard the value of inventions, trade secrets and copyrights.
  • Family law — Divorce and other family law concerns can be an overwhelming burden, but our qualified attorneys handle issues such as alimony and child custody conflicts.
  • Wealth & Succession — Whether you are looking to transfer family assets efficiently, shift ownership of a business or manage the probate process, our knowledgeable attorney offers creative counsel suited to your particular needs.

Website:  www.rwolaw.com

What makes your firm stand out as a resource for the franchise industry? 

RWO is highly regarded in franchise, licensing and distribution law for its experience, personalized services and cost-effective counseling.  Our practice group, while small, has over 90 years of experience in handling all aspects of franchise, licensing and distribution law, including being one of the leading firms in handling international franchise law.  Our transactional group provides comprehensive advice and legal services to franchisors in a wide variety of industries.  Our services include preparation and updating of documents such as the franchise disclosure documents generally required for all franchise systems under U.S. law, franchise agreements, master license agreements and international disclosure documents. We also assist with:

  • State franchise registration and exemption filings
  • International franchising and licensing
  • Franchise disclosure document preparation review
  • Franchise registration
  • International franchising
  • Regulation and compliance
  • Trade secrets
  • Intellectual property licensing
  • Covenants not to compete
  • Distribution

Our litigation group handles all aspects of dispute resolution whether in negotiations, mediation, litigation or arbitration, including:

  • Disclosure document and franchise agreement disputes
  • Disputes concerning covenants not to compete
  • Distribution and licensing disputes
  • Regulation and compliance
  • Royalty collection actions
  • Trade secret enforcement actions
  • Intellectual property enforcement
  • Product and marketing licenses
  • International licensing enforcement

Our franchise litigators regularly handle enforcement of covenants not to compete and assert and respond to claims of trademark infringement, system noncompliance, and nonpayment of fees and other amounts due franchisors. RWO’s attorneys are experienced in handling claims involving antitrust, trade secret violations, consumer protection, deceptive trade practices and Federal Trade Commission enforcement.

What is the No. 1 thing a franchisor/franchisee should look for when identifying the right franchise attorney? 

Experience.  Franchising is a unique practice area.  Many business lawyers think they can handle franchise deals, but do not understand many of the nuances involved in franchising.  One question clients should ask when seeking out counsel is whether the attorney is a member of the ABA Forum on Franchising and/or the IFA. If not, they are not staying up on the latest industry trends and issues.

When it comes to your work, what makes you happiest? 

I am a transactional lawyer.  I love putting deals together and seeing success.  We pride ourselves in developing documents that protect our clients yet at the same time do not “kill the deal.”  We promote fairness and thoroughness. 

What are your top concerns for the franchise industry in the next year? 

The two biggest issues confronting franchising in the USA are the joint employer issue and the implications of the new accounting standards that will require franchisors to prorate the initial franchisee fees over the life of the franchise term.  Internationally, it is the plethora of new laws that are coming into effect each year.  More and more countries are adopting franchise disclosure and relationship laws each year. 

What are you most optimistic about in the franchise industry in the next year? 

I’ve been practicing in the franchise arena for over 30 years.  I’ve seen franchising grow from primarily a USA concept to being worldwide.  With that has come more and more laws, but domestically and internationally.  But franchising always adapts.  The franchise community will find ways to address the issues confronting franchising today.  Franchising is such a large portion of the world’s GDP that it will survive, no matter what rules, standards, regulations, or laws will come along.  It will survive.