Fairfest and Messe Berlin dispute festers

SINGAPORE, 6 December 2019: India’s major trade show organiser, Fairfest, surprised the events business world when it filed a complaint against Messe Berlin, the organiser of a brand new trade show ITB India.

More surprises followed. Messe Berlin went ahead with preparations for the inaugural ITB India in 2020 as the sole owner after collaboration with Fairfest collapsed in 2017.

Then earlier this week, Fairfest released a statement that a court-appointed arbitrator had ruled in the company’s favour on allegations that Messe Berlin stood to gain from confidential information protected under a non-disclosure agreement.

Fairfest claimed that the shared data could be used to improve the success of the up-coming ITB India at the Indian company’s expense.

See earlier TTR Weekly report “ITB India hit by injunction”: https://www.ttrweekly.com/site/2019/12/india-hits-itb-with-an-injunction/

The arbitrator’s ruling places a moratorium on specific proprietary, confidential information that Messe Berlin had access to during the period the two companies embarked on collaboration discussions.

We filed questions with both Fairfest and Messe Berlin (Singapore). The latter has also responded. See today’s report ‘Messe Berlin: ITB India show goes on’ for the full statement.

Fairfest fielded TTR Weekly’s questions in the following Q&A.

Damage assessment

Q1. Can you provide information on the impact this decision may have on the show? Is your intention to force it to close, or are you hoping for a compromise, or just compensation in financial terms at this stage?

A. “The impact cannot be predicted. We will enforce all our rights, including injunctions and compensation.

“We are not in a position to comment on the impact that the injunction issued against Messe Berlin will have on the show. However, it appears reasonable to expect that the on-going dispute could have an adverse effect on the show.

“We believe that the show is entirely based on the acquisition of our proprietary, confidential information by Messe Berlin, as a proposed collaborator. We cannot allow the use of the same, because we believe that the show being organised is purely based on the confidential information which was shared with Messe Berlin under the terms of a legally binding Non-Disclosure Agreement.

“We believe that the trade show organised by Messe Berlin should not only be stopped, but we should also be given adequate and just financial compensation for the loss caused to us.

“Subject to the advice of our legal advisors, we will initiate further necessary action to protect our rights.  We are in consultation with our legal advisors to determine the future course of action in the matter.

“However, as a prudent and professional organisation, we are always ready to sit across the table and resolve all disputes and differences.”

More in the pipeline

Q2. Your statement hints of possible Singapore follow-up complaints to the authorities there?   Could you clarify your intentions? 

A. “Actions may include moving to an appropriate court in Singapore, as we may be advised, in due course.

“Messe Berlin has had no presence in the Indian travel and tourism market. Messe Berlin wanted not only to collaborate with us, for holding of travel and trade shows in India, but they also expressed (at the time) that they were keen to invest in our company.

“As a prelude to discussions regarding investment in our company, they executed a Letter of Intent (LOI) which also includes a confidentiality clause protecting the information shared by us. The information shared under the Letter of Intent is also at risk of misuse. Whenever we think appropriate, we intend to protect our interests under the said Letter of Intent.

“The Letter of Intent does mention that the jurisdiction of the adjudication of disputes would be Singapore.

The final word

Q3. Is the arbitrator’s decision final? 

A. “The claim before the arbitrator would be for appropriate injunctions, damages and compensation. We have been given to understand that the decision of the arbitrator is final.

“However, there are possibilities of an appeal in the courts. In seriously contested matters and on points of law the matters can go up to the Supreme Court of India.”

Data scoop

Q4.   Do you have further details on the nature and description of the confidential material?

A.  “The confidential information includes, among other things detailed financial information and the details of buyers. There is other confidential information that has been protected as per the injunction order.”

(Source: Q&A content is edited only for brevity and represents the views and opinions of the interviewee).

Related report: Messe Berlin responds to TTR Weekly questions