Who Owns the Star?

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Dealer Expo reportedly played host to a number of cases involving intellectual property rights (IPR) abuse. One of them involved a logo that may look too much like Alpinestars' famous trademark.

Arshaman Enterprises, an apparel supplier from Pakistan, exhibited in the RCA Dome next to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan reception area. Arshaman's product showcase featured a leather jacket emblazoned with a logo looking very much like the Alpinestars logo. We contacted Alpinestars and found out the company has already initiated legal measures against Arshaman. "At Alpinestars the protection of our intellectual property rights is very important," says spokesperson Stephanie Shenas. "We take action against any party infringing or counterfeiting our product." Arshaman official were not available for comment.

So how was Arshaman able to showcase a logo at Dealer Expo that Alpinestars alleges to be a rip-off? Because Dealer Expo doesn't require exhibitors to sign documents testifying that the product shown does not violate a copyright or IPR. "As a show producer, we are neutral and are not equipped to determine whether or not a product has actually infringed," explains Trevor Trumbo, show manager.

Trumbo tells Dealernews that he knows of several other IPR-related claims from the 2008 event, "but the details relating to those claims are confidential."

Exhibitors showcasing product at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, are required to sign a contract promising to adhere to copyright, patent and IPR issues, and not display items that could be considered copies of a competitor's existing product. Specialists assigned by event organizers to enforce the contract during the 2007 EICMA show responded to dozens of claims.

"We go to the booth in question along with the accuser, inspect the product, propose the case to the accused, and request that the accused company remove the product under discussion. If that company doesn't agree with the charge, we will tell the enforcement team to clear the exhibitor's booth," says Massimo Casini, attorney for EICMA event organizer Confindustria ANCMA.

However, the situation rarely gets to that point, Casini notes. "Ninety-nine percent of the time the exhibitors choose to remove the product themselves, which actually saves a lot of time and money for the accusing company," he says. If an accused company is prosecuted in a court of law and found to be guilty of IPR infringement, that company is banned from exhibiting at future EICMA events.

Trumbo says Dealer Expo management is considering adopting a similar system. "We're in the process of analyzing which parts, if any, we may want to introduce," he says. Currently, exhibitors who believe their IPR rights have been infringed upon are advised to handle the matter through the court system. "Companies may, at their discretion, serve cease-and-desist letters to companies they believe are violating their IPR," he says. — Guido Ebert