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The past few years have not been easy for trade fairs, and Euromold is no exception. Exhibitor numbers have dropped—from 1,523 in 2008 to just over 1000 in 2014—and visitor attendance has been flat for the past four to five years. In need of a makeover, Euromold took the bold decision to move to a new location, Düsseldorf, and, at the same time, implement a number of strategic changes designed to breathe new life into the show's concept.

Karen Laird

June 23, 2015

4 Min Read
Trade show skirmish: Messe Frankfurt makes play for new show, but Euromold cries foul

The past few years have not been easy for trade fairs, and Euromold is no exception. Exhibitor numbers have dropped—from 1,523 in 2008 to just over 1000 in 2014—and visitor attendance has been flat for the past four to five years. In need of a makeover, Euromold took the bold decision to move to a new location, Düsseldorf, and, at the same time, implement a number of strategic changes designed to breathe new life into the show's concept. Recognizing that additive manufacturing and 3D printing had become the main draws, organizer Demat GmbH entered into various partnerships to strengthen its position in these areas. In short, Euromold is going about the business of trying to reinvent itself.

 boxing-man-Boians-Cho-Joo-Young-350.jpg

Image courtesy Boians Cho Joo Young/freedigitalphotos.net.

Yet around the same time, Messe Frankfurt, Euromold's partner of 21 years, decided to fill the hole created by Euromold's departure to Messe Düsseldorf by launching a show of its own. Called Formnext, the new show, with a focus on tooling, design, product development and additive manufacturing technology, demonstrated Frankfurt's ambition to remain the trade fair center for the sector. According to a messe spokesman, the fair is to be the international business platform for the sector, acting as a "catalyst for technological progress."

Fair enough, one might think. After all, it is not the first trade show to challenge Euromold's hegemony in this sector. This year saw the debut of MouldingExpo in Stuttgart, which, as the name suggests, is the newest biannual trade fair for prototyping, tool and moldmaking. The new show boasts four formidable supporters: the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), the German Machine Tool Builders' Association (VDW), the German Association of Pattern and Mould Making and the German Tool Construction and Mouldmaking Association (VDWF). It was launched to provide a platform that would meet the apparently unmet needs of this industry.

Messe Frankfurt's plans for Formnext, however, look to have suffered a severe setback last week. According to Demat, Messe Frankfurt used "illegitimate methods" in setting up the new show and aggressively attacked Euromold's business, leading Demat to take legal steps against its former partner, including a preliminary injunction. Last week, the Regional Court of Frankfurt sided with Demat, rejecting objections entered by Messe Frankfurt GmbH and two of its subsidiaries against the preliminary injunction that had been imposed on the trade fair due to unlawful e-mail transmissions and violation of data privacy laws.

Demat has, in the meantime, also submitted a claim for damages against the trade fair. The company released a statement saying that it had been "heavily harmed" by what it described as Messe Frankfurt's illegitimate conduct.

"Trade fairs have to guarantee that the data provided to the fair is secure and will not be used for its own purposes. The ruling of the regional court helps to put this issue in the legally correct perspective," explains Christian Kusulis, lawyer at Graf von Westphalen, who, together with his colleagues Dr Süß and Mr Schuhmann, represents Euromold organizers.

Demat's lawyers have accused the messe of violating internationally recognized regulations, by starting to "strategically harm Demat GmbH throughout the ongoing Euromold Exhibition in 2014 by sending promotional mails to Euromold exhibitors for their own competing exhibition Formnext, after having usurped their addresses from their client Demat."

In an official response, Messe Frankfurt wrote: "We very much regret the extent to which the dispute between Demat and Messe Frankfurt has become public. After Demat largely failed to meet its contractual obligations in the past year, Messe Frankfurt had no choice but to terminate extraordinarily the existing framework agreement with Demat."

Furthermore, Messe Frankfurt was forced to initiate a number of legal proceedings in order to claim substantial outstanding receivables vis-à-vis Demat.

"These proceedings are still ongoing," the messe wrote.

During the hearing, Demat also raised the issue of subsidiarity, arguing that according to law, municipal undertakings such as Messe Frankfurt may only engage in economic business activity when this is justified by public purpose and, in addition, when there is no private undertaking available which could fulfill this purpose.

Messe Frankfurt dismissed this argument, responding with: "The assumption that Messe Frankfurt—as a company with public-sector shareholders—is not authorized to organize Formnext, is not correct. Frankfurt District Court merely declared that Messe Frankfurt was not entitled to use data obtained from Demat when promoting Formnext."

Following the court's approval of the preliminary injunction, Demat is weighing further legal steps against Messe Frankfurt and Formnext. However, says the company: "Undeterred by the legal dispute, Demat will continue its success story at its new location, Messe Düsseldorf."

Equally undeterred, Messe Frankfurt has let it be known that the new Formnext event "is not put at risk by the proceedings outlined by Demat and will definitely take place in Frankfurt between 17 and 20 November."

All very fine and well, but meanwhile, MouldingExpo in Stuttgart has announced that its debut edition has done extremely well and is "already positioned as the future leading trade fair for tool, pattern and mold making," as one satisfied participant put it. The second edition is planned for May 2017.

Now that sounds like something Demat and Messe Frankfurt should really be worrying about.

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