Paperless Filing for State Franchise Registrations
This week, the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions sent out an email confirming that Wisconsin will only accept electronic filing (or “e-filing”) of all franchise registration applications beginning on October 1, 2016. With this announcement, Wisconsin will become that first franchise registration state that does not allow franchisors to submit registration applications in the mail. This communication also present us with a good opportunity to review the status of e-filing in the other franchise registration states.
Franchisors that have a federally registered trademark are required to submit an annual registration, exemption or notice filing in the following states: California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. In the vast majority of these states, franchisors are still required to submit hard copies of their registration applications in the mail, with many of the states requiring clean and redlined copies of the FDD (which are often hundreds of pages each). However, in recent years some of these states are starting to move toward electronic filing.
In addition to Wisconsin, the following states have added an option for franchisors to electronically submit their franchise filings: California, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington. Here are the websites where franchisors can electronically file their franchise applications in each of these states after creating an account and ensuring that they have the proper documents ready to submit:
California – https://docqnet.dbo.ca.gov/RegistrationLanding/
Minnesota – https://mn.gov/commerce/businessfiling/
Rhode Island – https://elicensing.ri.gov
Every year, it is likely that more and more states will make the additional investment needed to implement e-filing, which should lead to a more cost-efficient registration process and avoid the rare instances where the materials are lost in the mail. Though no other state has gone as far as Wisconsin in fully eliminating paper filing, we can imagine a world in the not-too-distant future where all franchise registrations are submitted electronically. As a firm, we welcome the shift toward e-filing, and we are planning to fully integrate this development into our standard registration process during the next FDD renewal cycle to save our clients time and money.