Franchising - from the French for 'Free', franchising is a method of doing business wherein a franchisor licenses trademarks and methods of doing business in exchange for a recurring royalty fee.
The term is commonly used to describe a wide variety of business relationships which may or may not fall into the legal definition provided above. For example, a vending machine operator may receive a franchise for a particular kind of vending machine, including a trademark and a royalty but no method of doing business.
In the US franchising falls under the jurisdiction of a number of state and federal laws. Contrary to what might be expected, there is no federal registry of franchising or any federal filing requirements for information. Instead, states primarily collect data on franchising companies and enforce laws and regulations regarding their spread.
Franchising is at least 150 years old. One early example resulted in the characteristic look of historic hotels (bars) in New South Wales, with franchising agreements between hotels and breweries. An American example was the telegraph system operated by various railroad companies but controlled by Western Union.
Modern franchising came to prominence in the 1950s with the plethora of franchise-based fast food restaurants, of which McDonalds is the first and most globally successful. Many retail sectors, particularly in the United States, are now dominated by franchising to the point where independently-run operations are the exception rather than the rule.