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A drink and a doughnut are seen at a Dunkin' Donuts location in a Chicago suburb.

JIM YOUNG

Former franchisees than ran coffee shops under the Dunkin' Donuts banner in Quebec have won a 13-year battle against the parent company.

The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday dismissed a request to hear an appeal of a Quebec Court of Appeal decision last year.

The ruling forces Dunkin' Brands Canada Ltd. to pay the 21 former operators of 32 locations in the province nearly $18-million, including interest and legal costs.

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The former franchisees sued the company in 2003 for failing to live up to its obligation to promote the U.S. doughnut chain's brand in Quebec as it faced growing competition from Tim Hortons.

The company had alleged that the franchisees didn't manage the brand according to its standards.

In 2012, the Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of the franchisees, cancelled their leases and contracts, and ordered Dunkin' Donuts to pay $16.4-million in damages.

Three years later, the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the ruling but reduced the award to $10.9-million.

Only four Dunkin' Donuts locations remain in Quebec, all in the Montreal area.

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