A licensing or other relationship where the trademark and system/significant control prongs of the FTC Franchise Rule are met is excluded from the scope of the franchise regulation if the total required payments by the franchisee before and during the 6-month period after the business opens do not exceed $500.
The required fee element captures all sources of revenue paid by a licensee to a licensor for the license. The element is deliberately expansive, encompassing lump sum, installment, fixed, fluctuating, up-front, and periodic payments for goods or services, however denominated, whether direct, indirect, hidden, or refundable.
To avoid the FTC Rule franchise fee requirement, it is possible for a licensor to defer required payments exceeding $500 for at least six months, and as a result, not be deemed a franchise under the FTC Rule and federal law. This remains true even if the licensee signs a nonnegotiable, secured promissory note (with no acceleration clause) promising to pay the money after six months.
The deferment option is not all-encompassing however. While the FTC Rule permits this deferment of payment option, this is applicable only in those states that do not have individual, state specific franchise laws, since in those states such license transactions are governed by the FTC Rule. There are upwards of 15 states across the country, including Maryland, Virginia, New York, California, and Illinois, which do have specific franchise laws, and which do not grant this deferment option. As a result, deferment is not an option in these states. Have your franchise attorney check the franchise law of each individual state before proceeding.