Yes it is a cheap and easy win that sends a message primarily to discourage future troublemakers. But it destroys any chance for dialogue or trust between the bully, the bullied, and the bystander.
This is the main reason you see a lowering quality of behavior by the stakeholders: franchisors, lawyers, franchisees, media, politicians, etc. There are no innocent bystanders in this life: you knew or should have been expected to know. A failure to act is an action.
Definition of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, SLAPP is:
a lawsuit or a threat of lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
Winning the lawsuit is not necessarily the intent of the person filing the SLAPP.
The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism.
The last bit is very important as it relates to the franchise industry:
A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. [Wikipedia]
Each trademark franchise system is a complex, long-standing group that has a well developed institutuional memory:
a collective of facts, concepts, experiences and know-how held by a group of people. As it transcends the individual, it requires the ongoing transmission of these memories between members of this group. Elements of institutional memory may be found in corporations, professional groups, government bodies, religious groups, academic collaborations and by extension in entire cultures.
Business format franchising, in general, has its own ideology [beliefs, norms, philosophy].