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Distribution and Dealership Litigation

Distribution & Dealership Litigation

The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (WFDL) restricts manufacturers and suppliers from altering or terminating relationships with Wisconsin distributors, often a surprise to many companies. We have extensive WFDL experience and help our clients navigate its scope and limitations within Wisconsin.

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Distribution and Dealership Litigation

Critical Relationships and a Complex Legal Framework

Anyone who has taken a product from idea to consumer knows the importance of a distribution network.

Numerous industries rely on independent sales representatives, dealerships, and distributors to reach and expand their customer base. Like any business endeavor, there are times when manufacturers and suppliers who sell their goods and services through dealers, sales representatives, and independent distributors find themselves in disputes with those important partners.

Disagreements may arise out of the distributor’s failure to meet certain sales, or they may begin selling a competing product line. Oftentimes these disputes lead manufacturers and suppliers to attempt to alter or terminate their relationships with their Wisconsin distributors. 

Proceed With Caution

Unwary manufacturers and suppliers who attempt to alter or terminate relationships with Wisconsin distributors are often surprised to learn that what they are proposing to do, while permissible almost everywhere else, is prohibited by the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (WFDL).

The WFDL places extra-contractual restrictions upon manufacturers and suppliers that want to substantially change their relationship with their Wisconsin distributors. But the WFDL does not apply to all Wisconsin distributors.

Godfrey & Kahn litigators have substantial experience with the WFDL and have advised manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors regarding the scope of the WFDL. We help clients identify to which relationships the law applies, and what the law does and does not permit. Godfrey & Kahn’s experience with the WFDL—one of the nation’s most restrictive dealership laws—has led to clients entrusting our team with their matters outside Wisconsin as well.

When Conflict Cannot Be Avoided

When counseling proves unsuccessful, our litigators are experienced in arbitrations, as well as the trial and appellate court levels on all issues associated with the WFDL. We represented the defendant manufacturer in the seminal case of Ziegler Co., Inc. v. Rexnord, Inc., which established the modern framework for determining whether a supplier’s relationship with its distributor is covered by the WFDL.

Since that time, we have represented the suppliers of Snapple, Guinness, bird food, telephone systems, electronics, liquor, beer, and many other products, as well as distributors in a variety of industries.

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