135.01   Short title.
135.02   Definitions.
135.025   Purposes; rules of construction; variation by contract.
135.03   Cancellation and alteration of dealerships.
135.04   Notice of termination or change in dealership.
135.045   Repurchase of inventories.
135.05   Application to arbitration agreements.
135.06   Action for damages and injunctive relief.
135.065   Temporary injunctions.
135.066   Intoxicating liquor dealerships.
135.07   Nonapplicability.
135.01 135.01 Short title. This chapter may be cited as the “Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law."
135.01 History History: 1973 c. 179; 2021 a. 238 s. 45.
135.01 Annotation This chapter was enacted for the protection of the interests of the dealer whose economic livelihood may be imperiled by the dealership grantor, whatever its size. Rossow Oil Co. v. Heiman, 72 Wis. 2d 696, 242 N.W.2d 176 (1976).
135.01 Annotation This chapter covers only agreements entered into after April 5, 1974. Wipperfurth v. U-Haul Co. of Western Wis., Inc., 101 Wis. 2d 586, 304 N.W.2d 767 (1981).
135.01 Annotation This chapter is constitutional; it may be applied to out-of-state dealers when provided by contract. C.A. Marine Sup. Co. v. Brunswick Corp., 557 F.2d 1163. See also Boatland, Inc. v. Brunswick Corp. 558 F.2d 818.
135.01 Annotation When a dealer did not comply with all the terms of acceptance of a dealership agreement, no contract was formed and this chapter did not apply. Century Hardware Corp. v. Acme United Corp., 467 F. Supp. 350 (1979).
135.01 Annotation Dealing with the Dealers: Scope of the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law. Axe. WBB Aug. 1981.
135.01 Annotation The Fair Dealership Law: Good cause for review. Riteris & Robertson. WBB Mar. 1986.
135.01 Annotation Changing Business Strategy Under the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law. Laufer. Wis. Law. Mar. 1991.
135.01 Annotation Avoiding the Accidental Franchise. Modell & Fittante. Wis. Law. May 2003.
135.01 Annotation Determining “Community of Interest" under the WFDL. Wright. Wis. Law. Dec. 2004.
135.01 Annotation Understanding the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law in Tough Economic Times. Wright. Wis. Law. Nov. 2009.
135.02 135.02 Definitions. In this chapter:
135.02(1) (1)“Community of interest" means a continuing financial interest between the grantor and grantee in either the operation of the dealership business or the marketing of such goods or services.
135.02(2) (2)“Dealer" means a person who is a grantee of a dealership situated in this state.
135.02(3) (3)“Dealership" means any of the following:
135.02(3)(a) (a) A contract or agreement, either expressed or implied, whether oral or written, between 2 or more persons, by which a person is granted the right to sell or distribute goods or services, or use a trade name, trademark, service mark, logotype, advertising or other commercial symbol, in which there is a community of interest in the business of offering, selling or distributing goods or services at wholesale, retail, by lease, agreement or otherwise.
135.02(3)(b) (b) A contract or agreement, either expressed or implied, whether oral or written, between 2 or more persons by which a wholesaler, as defined in s. 125.02 (21), is granted the right to sell or distribute intoxicating liquor or use a trade name, trademark, service mark, logotype, advertising or other commercial symbol related to intoxicating liquor. This paragraph does not apply to dealerships described in s. 135.066 (5) (a) and (b).
135.02(4) (4)“Good cause" means:
135.02(4)(a) (a) Failure by a dealer to comply substantially with essential and reasonable requirements imposed upon the dealer by the grantor, or sought to be imposed by the grantor, which requirements are not discriminatory as compared with requirements imposed on other similarly situated dealers either by their terms or in the manner of their enforcement; or
135.02(4)(b) (b) Bad faith by the dealer in carrying out the terms of the dealership.
135.02(5) (5)“Grantor" means a person who grants a dealership.
135.02(6) (6)“Person" means a natural person, partnership, joint venture, corporation or other entity.
135.02 Annotation A cartage agreement between an air freight company and a trucking company did not create a “dealership" under this chapter. Kania v. Airborne Freight Corp., 99 Wis. 2d 746, 300 N.W.2d 63 (1981).
135.02 Annotation A manufacturer's representative was not a “dealership." Foerster, Inc. v. Atlas Metal Parts Co., 105 Wis. 2d 17, 313 N.W.2d 60 (1981).
135.02 Annotation This chapter applies exclusively to dealerships that do business within the geographic confines of the state. Swan Sales Corp. v. Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co., 126 Wis. 2d 16, 374 N.W.2d 640 (Ct. App. 1985).
135.02 Annotation Two guideposts for determining the existence of a “community of interest" under sub. (3) are: 1) a shared financial interest in the operation of the dealership or the marketing of a good or service; and 2) the degree of cooperation, coordination of activities, and sharing of common goals in the parties' relationship. Ziegler Co., Inc. v. Rexnord, Inc., 139 Wis. 2d 593, 407 N.W.2d 873 (1987).
135.02 Annotation A substantial investment distinguishes a dealership from a typical vendee-vendor relationship; establishing a loss of future profits is not sufficient. Gunderjohn v. Loewen-America, Inc., 179 Wis. 2d 201, 507 N.W.2d 115 (Ct. App. 1993).
135.02 Annotation Contracts between an HMO and chiropractors for the provision of chiropractic services to HMO members did not did not establish the chiropractors as dealerships under this chapter. Bakke Chiropractic Clinic v. Physicians Plus Insurance, 215 Wis. 2d 605, 573 N.W.2d 542 (Ct. App.1997), 97-1169.
135.02 Annotation A dealership is a contract or agreement establishing a particular sort of commercial relationship that encompasses an extraordinary diverse set of business relationships not limited to the traditional franchise. The focus of the analysis must be on whether the business relationship can be said to be situated in the state after examining a broad set of factors outlined by the court. Baldewein Co. v. Tri-Clover, Inc., 2000 WI 20, 233 Wis. 2d 57, 606 N.W.2d 145, 99-0541. See also Baldewein Co. v. Tri-Clover, Inc., 183 F. Supp. 2d 1116 (2002).
135.02 Annotation Assuming without deciding that the size of the local economy relative to the cost of the putative dealer's inventory of the grantor's products is a relevant factor in determining the existence of a community of interest, that factor did not demonstrate the existence of a community of interest in this case. Moe v. Benelli U.S.A. Corp., 2007 WI App 254, 306 Wis. 2d 812, 743 N.W.2d 691, 06-1512.
135.02 Annotation Under sub. (2), a “dealer" is defined in this chapter to mean “a person who is a grantee of a dealership situated in this state." Sub. (3) defines “dealership" in part as “contract or agreement . . . between 2 or more persons, by which a person is granted the right to sell or distribute goods or services . . . .” Sub. (6) defines “person" as “a natural person, partnership, joint venture, corporation or other entity” and a city is a municipal corporation. Under s. 990.01 (26), “person" includes all partnerships, associations, and bodies politic and corporate. The general term “corporation" presumptively should be read to include more specific types of corporations. Under the facts of this case, the relationships between the defendant city and the golf pro plaintiffs who operated its golf courses constituted “dealerships" under sub. (3). Benson v. City of Madison, 2017 WI 65, 376 Wis. 2d 35, 897 N.W.2d 16, 15-2366.
135.02 Annotation A wine grantor-dealer relationship is not included within the definition of a dealership in sub. (3) (b). Section 135.066 (2) provides the operative definition of intoxicating liquor for purposes of this chapter, and that definition explicitly excludes wine. Winebow, Inc. v. Capitol-Husting Co., Inc., 2018 WI 60, 381 Wis. 2d 732, 914 N.W.2d 631, 17-1595.
135.02 Annotation When an otherwise protected party transfers a protected interest to a third party, a “community of interest" is destroyed and the party removed from WFDL protection. Lakefield Telephone Co. v. Northern Telecom, Inc., 970 F.2d 392 (1992).
135.02 Annotation A community of interest exists when a large proportion of a dealer's revenues are derived from the dealership, or when the alleged dealer has made sizable investments specialized in the grantor's goods or services. Frieburg Farm Equip. v. Van Dale, Inc. 978 F.2d 395 (1992).
135.02 Annotation There is no “community of interest" in the sale of services not yet in existence when the availability of the services is dependent on the happening of an uncertain condition. Simos v. Embassy Suites, Inc., 983 F.2d 1404 (1993).
135.02 Annotation This chapter does not protect a manufacturer's representative that lacks the unqualified authorization to sell or the authority to commit the manufacturer to a sale. Sales & Marketing Assoc., Inc. v. Huffy Corp., 57 F.3d 602 (1995).
135.02 Annotation If a grantor is losing substantial money under the dealership relationship, it may constitute “good cause" for changes in the contract, including termination. Morley-Murphy Co. v. Zenith Electronics, Inc., 142 F.3d 373 (1998).
135.02 Annotation This chapter specifies who may take advantage of its protections through the terms “dealer" and “dealership" and obviates the need to resort to conflict of laws principles. Investment in the state without in-state sales does not bring a party within the coverage of the chapter. Generac Corp. v. Caterpillar, Inc., 172 F.3d 971 (1999).
135.02 Annotation A manufacturer's right of approval of its distributors' subdistributors did not create a contractual relationship between the manufacturer and the subdistributor subject to this chapter. Praefke Auto Electric & Battery Co. v. Tecumseh Products Co., 255 F.3d 460 (2001).
135.02 Annotation The WFDL expresses no concern for the mission or other motivation underlying the sales in question; it asks only whether sales occur. Nor does the statute draw any distinction between for-profit and not-for-profit entities. The stated concern is with fair business relations, and it is beyond dispute that nonprofit corporations can be substantial businesses. It matters not whether the purported dealer would be called a “dealer" in everyday conversation; what matters is only how the statute defines the term. Girl Scouts of Manitou Council, Inc. v. Girl Scouts of the United States of America, Inc., 549 F.3d 1079 (2008).
135.02 AnnotationAffirmed in part, reversed in part. 646 F.3d 983 (2011).
135.02 Annotation For an entity to qualify as a dealership through the use of commercial symbols, more is required than the mere right to use a commercial symbol. Instead, a dealership must either put those symbols to such use that the public associates the dealer with the trademark or prominently display the logo as an implicit guarantee of quality. Such use by a dealership ties its fortunes to the reputation of the grantor, giving the grantor superior bargaining power that the grantor might use to exploit the dealer. Sufficiently substantial use of a grantor's corporate symbol typically requires a purported dealer to make a substantial investment in the trademark. PMT Machinery Sales, Inc. v. Yama Seiki USA, Inc., 941 F.3d 325 (2019).
135.02 Annotation The distinction between a dealer and a manufacturer's representative is discussed. Al Bishop Agency, Inc. v. Lithonia-Division of National Services, Inc., 474 F. Supp. 828 (1979).
2021-22 Wisconsin Statutes updated through 2023 Wis. Act 39 and through all Supreme Court and Controlled Substances Board Orders filed before and in effect on November 29, 2023. Published and certified under s. 35.18. Changes effective after November 29, 2023, are designated by NOTES. (Published 11-29-23)