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Practical Advice for CastExpo 2019

Dave Resser

CastExpo 2019 is scheduled for the end of April, and this may be a good time to consider some regulations and rules regarding trade shows.  Exhibitions in the United States are governed by several different rules and regulations controlling various aspects of your display and booth including accessibility, music volume, and booth height.  Fortunately, many or all of these regulations are explained in one or more of several documents including, but not limited to:  the CastExpo prospectus, a set of terms and conditions, a booth-space rental contract, and/or an exhibitor services manual.  While one or more of these documents may describe these regulations, the sheer number of rules — combined with the fact that they are scattered across different documents — makes it easy for nearly anyone to inadvertently miss pertinent details that could prove to be important.  The following listing is by no means an exhaustive list, however, it is intended to be a primer for exhibitors and attendees and it includes many common regulations that are sometimes overlooked.

Beware of unscrupulous parties who may not actually exhibit at CastExpo, but act as though they do.  Many of these non-exhibiting parties book hospitality suites or meeting space near the trade show venue, and invite registered attendees to off-site events.  This practice is often called “outboarding,” and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) has criticized this practice.  The IAEE tries to eliminate this practice to protect the interests of companies that rent exhibit space and conduct their off-site meetings approved by show management.  Non-exhibitors that sell at a trade show potentially poach buyers from the exhibitors who have paid for the opportunity to reach those buyers.  In order to curtail this practice, some show managers now reserve blocks of suites or meeting rooms at hotels near the show venue that can only be booked by paying exhibitors.  As such, if a non-exhibiting company attempts to rent meeting or event space at any of those hotels, the venue can refuse their reservation request.

Another serious offense, called “suitcasing,” occurs when attendees sell to exhibitors or other attendees within the exhibit hall, but do not purchase an exhibit to do so.  Typically, suitcasers approach people in the public areas of the show, such as registration and food-service areas, or aisles, and hand out brochures or other marketing material.  This is expressly prohibited at most shows since, again, these people are poaching the attendees/potential buyers that exhibitors have paid to see.  Consequences for suitcasing can include removal from the trade show, or even long-term bans.

Remember that most booths are subject to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.  Trade show exhibits are considered "public accommodations" and are subject to the requirements of the ADA.  Most show managers include a section in their booth-space rental contracts stating the exhibitor understands that the ADA requires its exhibit be accessible to persons with disabilities, and agrees that the exhibitor is solely responsible for assuring that its display complies with the ADA and its responsibilities to the physically, visually, or hearing impaired.

In most cases, the booth-space rental contract and exhibitor services manual typically have a "confines of booth" clause requiring that all of your marketing and promotional activities must take place within the perimeter of your rented space.  Do not plan on distributing literature in front of the CastExpo venue or having your foundry's personnel roam the exhibit hall passing out fliers.   On occasion, waivers to this rule may be granted by trade show management.

An increasing number of trade shows are requiring a certificate of insurance (COI) that proves comprehensive general liability coverage, not just from exhibitor-appointed contractors, but also from the exhibiting company.  You may be asked to name the following entities as additional insureds on the certificate: the show organizer, manager, and show itself, as well as the facility and the general services contractor.

In the event that you plan on disclosing a new apparatus or invention at CastExpo that you would eventually like to protect through a patent, be aware that public disclosure of the invention starts a clock.  In the United States, an inventor has one year from the date of disclosure of an invention within which to file a patent application.  However, the inventor or foundry also needs to be wary of two additional complications regarding disclosures of inventions.  First, if an American patent application is to be filed after disclosure at CastExpo, subsequent disclosures by others describing similar features of an invention can become hurdles to obtaining patent protection.  Second, the laws of many foreign countries require “absolute novelty” regarding the subjects of patent applications.  That is to say, inventions described in patent applications cannot have been previously disclosed at all.  As such, disclosures of inventions in America can preclude later foreign patent applications.  Here, the best advice is to file a patent application (even a United States provisional patent application) prior to any disclosures at CastExpo 2019.