The Dutch dance music industry is worth more than €500 million a year and has become an important export product. Since the award for the world’s best DJ was introduced in 1987, Dutch DJs have been frequent winners, including in 2013 when DJ Hardwell, from Breda, was chosen.

As well as successful DJs, the Netherlands also runs and exports successful and internationally renowned events and festivals – for example, the dance music event Sensation has taken place 60 times in countries in Europe, Australia, Asia and South America.

Many people want to share in the success of Dutch DJs, events and festivals, and thus their creations must be protected. The question is how best to do this. Unfortunately, concepts or creations are difficult to protect under European IP law. The music created by DJs can be protected under copyright law, whereas the names of DJs, events and festivals can be protected through trademark law. Thus, well-known DJs such as Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, Hardwell and Afrojack have now registered their names as trademarks.

The Dutch origin of festivals and DJs almost seems to guarantee success. However, in order to continue being successful and to protect innovations against infringement by third parties wishing to piggyback on that success, DJs and festival and event organisers need to have registered, legally strong trademarks.

In order to be successfully upheld, a trademark must be distinctive and may not describe the goods or services. This requirement was recently emphasised in legal proceedings before the Dutch courts between two dance event organisers which used similar names: WE R and WE ARE HARDSTYLE. The court decided that WE R stood for ‘we are’. Because WE R had a (descriptive) meaning, the brand WE R had limited protection. Because the logo for WE ARE HARDSTYLE was completely different from the WE R logo, the court felt that the brands were not confusingly similar. Thus, there was no trademark infringement.

Choosing a distinctive and non-descriptive name for an artist or event is vitally important to ensure the protection of the valuable dance music industry.

Yvonne Noorlander

This article first appeared in IAM magazine. For further information please visit www.iam-magazine.com.