Dawn Newton Partner (510) 451-3300 dnewton@donahue.com Download vCard LinkedIn

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Dawn Newton is a business attorney whose practice focuses on intellectual property and franchise law matters. She is certified as a legal specialist in franchise and distribution law by the Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California.

As a franchise law expert, Dawn represents a broad spectrum of franchised businesses, particularly restaurants and retail concepts, and she serves as outside general counsel for several. Her experience includes:

  • Managing the regulatory and compliance work of mature franchise systems
  • Structuring new franchise systems for start-up franchisors
  • Assisting businesses with resolving complex franchise law violation situations

In addition to her franchise practice, Dawn helps clients safeguard and preserve their intellectual property, such as:

  • Trademark and copyright prosecution and licensing
  • Creating and registering new marks and expanding marks internationally
  • Developing strategies to protect and enhance intellectual property
  • Policing and responding to allegations of infringement
  • Advising on issues raised by new forms of media

Dawn has extensive experience litigating business disputes in both federal and state court, including matters involving franchise relationships, trademarks, trade secrets, and confidential business information.

Professional & Community Affiliations

  • Member, American Bar Association Forum on Franchising, 2004-Present
  • Annual Meeting Co-Chair, American Bar Association Forum on Franchising, 2017
  • Member, Governing Committee, American Bar Association Forum on Franchising, 2015-Present
  • Member, International Franchise Association, 2015-Present
  • Member, Intellectual Property Section and Business Law Section, State Bar of California, 2008-Present
  • Chair and Commissioner, Franchise and Distribution Law Advisory Commission, Board of Legal Specialization, State Bar of California, 2008-2015
  • Chair, Intellectual Property Section, Alameda County Bar Association, 2011-2013
  • Member, Board of Directors, Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery, 2012-2015
  • Member, Board of Directors, People's Grocery, 2011-2015


  • Listed, Who's Who Legal: Franchise, 2017-2018
  • Named, The Best Lawyers in America© – Franchising, Best Lawyers, 2013-2019
  • Named, Rising Star, Northern California Super Lawyers, 2010
  • Recipient, Future Leader Award, Forum on Franchising, American Bar Association, 2010
  • Awarded, AV® Preeminent™ (5.0 out of 5) peer-review rated, Martindale-Hubbell™

Past Articles/News

Franchising a Marijuana Business: It’s Not Quite Mission ImpossibleFranchise Law Journal, American Bar Association, co-authored with Shannon L. McCarthy, vol. 35, no.3, Winter 2016


"The Annotated Franchise Agreement," Forum on Franchising - American Bar Association, contributing editor, 2018

"Negotiating Key Provisions," Chapter 2, Mergers and Acquisitions of Franchise Companies, second ed., Forum on Franchising - American Bar Association, contributing author, 2014

Recent Speaking Engagements

May 06, 2019 | Washington D.C., DC
IFA’s 52nd Legal Symposium
International Franchise Association (IFA)

October 10, 2018 | Nashville, TN
ABA’s 41st Forum on Franchising
American Bar Association Forum on Franchising

October 18, 2017 | Palm Dessert, CA
ABA’s 40th Annual Forum on Franchising
American Bar Association Forum on Franchising

November 02, 2016 | Miami, Florida
Fundamentals of Franchising
American Bar Association's Forum on Franchising

September 12, 2016 | Oakland, CA
The Forgotten Asset: Copyright Law for Estate Planners
East Bay Estate Planning Council

November 17, 2015 | San Francisco, CA
The Forgotten Asset: Copyright Law for Estate Planners
Bar Association of San Francisco

Past Speaking Engagements

  • October 15-16, 2015, Fundamentals 201: Drafting the Six Most Challenging Items in the FDD, Forum on Franchising – American Bar Association, New Orleans
  • June 28, 2015, Nationalizing Your Brand, 2015 Cannabis Business Summit, National Cannabis Industry Association, Denver
  • May 5, 2015, Handling Defaults and Terminations, 48th Annual Legal Symposium, International Franchise Association, Chicago
  • February 12, 2015, Franchising v. Licensing, National Cannabis Bar Association, San Francisco
  • 2013, Advanced Disclosure Issues, Forum on Franchising – American Bar Association, Orlando
  • 2010, Best Practices for Establishing a Franchise Compliance Program,  Forum on Franchising – American Bar Association, San Diego