The art deco doors of the Paragon café remained open throughout two world wars, three transfers of business and multiple financial crises. Now, despite purchase offers in multiples of the owner’s asking price, the business’s 102 years of operation is set for a tragic end.

What/who could be responsible for the death of such a robust business? The cause, as it turns out, is an unrelenting dispute between the landlord and restaurateur as to who owns the business name. On the one hand the current business owner insists that she has the rights to use the name. On the other hand, the land lord argues that the name is part of the property. It appears that neither the lease agreement, nor the contract of sale touch on business name ownership. The parties may face a costly legal battle.

There are two key lessons to be salvaged from the Paragon café. Firstly, when purchasing a business, it is essential that both parties understand what is being exchanged. At the outset, parties should specify whether the business name and other associated IP are part and parcel of the transaction. Similarly, the parties must determine which assets belong to the business and whether those assets may be contested by a separate entity (e.g., a landlord).

Secondly, the Paragon Café demonstrates the value of a business name. A brand is the cornerstone of a business. It is the identity of the business; the means by which the public recognise and engage with the business. Despite the importance of branding, too often businesses leave their brand exposed to imitation, attack and dispute.

Don’t make the same mistake. Whether it’s a corner street café, or big business, Rankin & Co. will guide you through the process of buying or selling your business. Rankin & Co. is also committed to protecting your intellectual property and brand through various means including copyright, patents, trademarks and confidentiality agreements.