The growth of the international marketplace, and a significant rise in digital communications, has made the protection of product ideas and designs an increasingly important issue. This year, for the first time in the history of the PLASA Show, a Code of Ethics was introduced and successfully implemented in response to exhibitors who wanted to protect their design copyright and patents.

"This is a very important step forward - not only for our exhibition, but I hope for others in the industry," PLASA's CEO Matthew Griffiths. "Blatant copying of product and theft of intellectual property are real concerns for many manufacturers who make huge investments in R&D. For years, companies have been able to pass off copied products at exhibitions, knowing they are unlikely to face consequences. PLASA is keen to take a firm stand on this issue and has introduced the Code of Ethics to ensure that our Show maintains its integrity."

The Code, which all exhibitors were asked to sign in advance of the show, requires that they respect design copyrights and patents and do not knowingly infringe them, and that where an infringement takes place, they will remedy the situation by removing the product from display.

According to Griffiths, there were a handful of disputes to resolve at this year's PLASA Show. "I am pleased to say that they were all settled amicably and without recourse to any legal intervention," he says. "This has to be the way to go for our industry and if PLASA can take a lead in bringing two or more parties together in an effort to resolve their differences, I am more than willing for us to do so."

Next year, the Code of Ethics will be a mandatory part of an exhibitor’s contract and companies exhibiting at PLASA 2005 can be confident that the organization will actively support both design copyright and patent rights.