Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘IP’

Is Imitation the Sincerest Form of Flattery? Nope!

December 30th, 2016 COMMENTS


In the past month, our designs have been copied three times. Three clear examples, all very different in scope. Question:  When do you throw up your hands vs. taking legal action to protect your intellectual property? Thought you might like to read what we decided to do in each situation.

Base Plate.

To be honest, we expected this to happen at some point. About seven years ago, we created an identifiable base plate for our Sacagawea Portable Hybrid Display line. The design made the base plates lighter, distinctive, and easier to carry. We expected other display manufacturers to create their own unique designs. What we didn’t anticipate was that a budget manufacturer/importer would simply tweak our existing design. See the minor difference.


What was surprising was seeing it at an exhibit association event, where members take an oath to honor one another’s intellectual property. I asked the owner about the base plate design and basically got a shrug. In other words, it is what it is. Will we pursue this legally? No but it’s an annoyance. This manufacturer has purchased parts and pieces from us in the past. We won’t sell to them again.

Charging Table.

Over the past year, we’ve designed and engineered a line of charging tables in various sizes and heights. The tables are clearly identifiable as Classic Exhibits designs, including the LED lights around the perimeter. Other charging solutions fit into one of two categories:  sofas, tables, and chairs with plugs or charging towers, similar to what you would see at an airport. Ours look nothing like those.

mod-1432gLast week,  I noticed a photo showing our MOD-1432 in LinkedIn… yet, it wasn’t. The shape was the same, along with the LED lights, USB charging ports, post, and base. Only the proportions were different. Honestly, we were surprised that someone would copy a design so clearly identifiable with Classic Exhibits. Yes, a round bistro table is a round bistro table, but the copy appeared to have the same LED light pattern and number of USB ports. Frankly, that’s being intellectually lazy.

I won’t share the photo because it would implicate the customer, rather than the manufacturer. So, what did we do? We sent the owner an email, who was kind enough to give me a call. While he felt their design didn’t infringe on the MOD-1432, he did agree to revisit the design and see if some changes were possible. We’ll see what happens.

Island Exhibit.

eco-4073_1_webThis one will blow your mind. Late last summer, our sister company Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits quoted a modified eSmart ECO-4073 island to a Distributor which included several Classic Exhibits counters and iPad stands. Several months later, we were contacted by a graphic designer asking for templates on the island they purchased in September. Except, we never built the island. The graphic designer sent us their invoice, which listed Classic kit numbers.

What the client purchased was a copy of the modified ECO-4073. Some small variations but 98% the same. The Distributor chose to build part of it and purchase other components, but it was an ECO-4073. And the distributor even included our part numbers on the invoice. For legal reasons, I can’t go into details; however, we are pursuing this aggressively with an IP attorney and expect a lawsuit to be filed within the next two weeks.

Like you, we are in a very creative business, so we’re always surprised when someone takes a design shortcut by copying. It’s one thing to improve, refine, expand on a design. It’s another thing to blatantly copy. And like you, we have to decide on the best recourse each time. We always address it. Sometimes tactfully, Sometimes bluntly. And sometimes legally. If you don’t, then the lazy will do what they do best. Steal your designs.

We would enjoy hearing your experiences and thoughts on this topic.

–Mel White


Ghouls… Goblins… and CyberThieves!: Word on the Street — October 20th thru October 24th

October 25th, 2014 2 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Fall is here. The leaves are turning in the Pacific NW, the rain has arrived, and the temperature has dropped. All signs that Halloween is just around the corner.

Recently, I went on a family vacation to Disneyland in California. We spent the entire first week of October there. Part of the reason we went was that Disneyland does a Halloween Party 2-3 times a week during October. It was fun. All the kids and all the adults got dressed up in costumes, all “Disney-Safe” and fairly wholesome for the most part. Pirates, Ninjas, and more Princesses than you could ever imagine. But not criminals…or thieves.

Intellectual Property

Which brings me to the real reason for this post.

In business, we all rely heavily on our Intellectual Property. It’s the fruit of our hard work and the root of what ”Shared Success” is all about at Classic Exhibits and our proud Distributor Network.

We take great pride in and go to great lengths to make our shared IP available to Authorized Classic Exhibits Distributors. That IP, in part, includes our designs and our Exhibit Design Search images, along with our patented products.

Recently, we were directed to a website for an online exhibit company based in Southern California. We were informed that the online company was using our images, along with Classic kit numbers.

large-2014-031314 SEG 10x10_a

VK-1118 Portable Hybrid Exhibit

When I went to the site, I honestly saw something that I never expected to see. Entire galleries, splash page images, detail pages, text, etc. that had been stolen from either the Classic Exhibits EDS or from one of our trusted Classic Distributor Branded EDS sites. It was more than shocking. Mainly because there was not so much as a tiny bit of effort to hide the fact that they stole the images… even the text that indicated they were an authorized Classic Distributor. We have seen this before from overseas websites, but they were smart enough to only choose a dozen or so designs. Just enough to give the website “exhibit design credibility.”

You might think that is the worst of it…but there is more.  We also found, after receiving a call from an end-user, that they were selling exhibits as “Classic Exhibits built displays,” but delivering cobbled together versions using various products on the market, none of which were from Classic Exhibits. In one case, a client was so shocked by the abysmal quality that they called us to complain. In response, we did two things:  1. We explained to them that their display was not manufactured by Classic, and 2. We replaced the exhibit at our expense.


While my wish would be to share the link with you, there is a legal progress that prevents me from doing so. But I did want you to know. Often this happens under the radar. But unethical people who lack creativity often become cyberthieves willing to take your hard work and use it to line their pockets.

We all know that websites can present a much different company than really exists at the street address on their contact pages. And in this case, what appears to be a real professional business was nothing more than a thief with a laptop, mouse, and PayPal account. Sadly, this business has been operating “legitimately” in our industry in various forms for over 20 years. Truly a “trick” experience for unsuspecting customers.

I hope you and your families have a great and safe Halloween this coming Friday.

May the fall business rush continue. Be well.