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“Protecting Tomorrowland’s distintive and unified identity is crucial from an IP law perspective"
Isabelle Ghislain, Head of Legal for Tomorrowland, one of the most acclaimed dance-music festivals in the world, discusses its robust intellectual property assets and its endeavors to prevent and counter infringements.
TomorrowLand x Leaders League
Isabelle Ghislain, Head of Legal
LEADERS LEAGUE: How is Tomorrowland’s legal department structured?
Isabelle Ghislain: I was hired in 2019 to set-up and lead Tomorrowland’s legal department. It has already been quite a ride, not forgetting Covid-19, which was challenging for the event sector. The Belgian Tomorrowland festival has been the beating heart of our organization for 15 years now. Over the years we’ve added several foreign projects such as Tomorrowland Winter in France and an annual summer residency at Ushuaïa Ibiza. Since last year, we have been doing CORE festival, in collaboration with Livenation and started a glamping concept Terra Solis in Dubai. In October, we will return to Brazil with Tomorrowland.
We are also entrepreneurial outside the festival circuit. To name a few things, we have our own media house, record label, artist agency, fiction books, restaurant, fashion label and DJ academy. With our Tomorrowland Foundation, we contribute to a more sustainable future on an international level. The legal team currently has a staff of two. Of course, we do collaborate with our lawyers on legal matters, but we try to minimize their involvement. As a team, we handle as much of the legal work as we can internally. Considering the recent growth of our company, with nearly 80 new additions to the staff in the last six months, it has become crucial for us to expand our legal department. We are knee deep in planning how we would like to further expand our team.
Our strong brand identity has also led to more companies approaching us for collaborations, further increasing the value of our IP assets
What do you consider the main IP assets of Tomorrowland?
Tomorrowland has become more than a festival, it’s a global community, a culture. Everything we do exudes our distinct brand identity. We offer a unique story and experience and stay true to it.
Regarding trademarks, we’ve built an extensive internationally protected portfolio over time. The basis is of course the Tomorrowland world mark and logo but, we actually have over 70 trademarks in our portfolio reaching across various projects. But trademarks aren’t our only IP assets. We do almost all our creative work in-house, resulting in a wealth of copyrights. Our uniquely designed stages and partner activations are carefully crafted by a strong team of artists & developers.
In addition to our physical presence, we have a significant digital footprint. We use live-streaming and social media platforms to enhance the reach and impact of our intellectual property. For example, in January we hosted a stage with our CORE concept in Mexico, creating a unique IP experience. Recently, we even launched our own record label, Tomorrowland Music, and ventured into book publishing, engaging with authors, publishers, and agents for IP contracts worldwide. We’re constantly exploring new avenues and informed choices to further strengthen our intellectual property.
Our strong brand identity has also led to more companies approaching us for collaborations, further increasing the value of our IP assets. Over time we have created a beautiful range of co-branded products with partners like Absolut Vodka, JBL, Solo Vida, Ellesse, BAOBAB, Loop Earplugs.
Ultimately, the strength of our brand and trademark portfolio, along with our intricate storyline, is the foundation of our IP valuation. Our creative department, the largest in our organization, contributes to the level of detail and quality people are willing to pay for in the Tomorrowland concept. When we enter new (international) collaborations, whether or not within the entertainment business, we carefully consider and value these assets.
In our pursuit of innovation, we believe that exploring the potential of artificial intelligence and the crypto market holds great promise
Do you have some hard IP or other innovations under management?
We’re constantly seeking new and innovative ways to showcase Tomorrowland. We’re particularly fascinated by emerging technologies in the entertainment industry, and it’s a topic we frequently discuss. Right now, our focus is on protecting our trademarks, copyrights, and design rights, especially when it comes to our incredible stages and creative output.
While we’re not idle in this regard, it’s important to understand that obtaining a patent for example requires meeting specific criteria and involves extensive research and development. It’s a process we’re working diligently on. As an organization, we strive to be at the forefront of innovation, ensuring that both the visual and auditory aspects of our businesses offer a unique experience. Protecting our distinct identity is crucial from an IP law perspective, and it remains a timely and significant matter for us.
In our pursuit of innovation, we believe that exploring the potential of artificial intelligence and the crypto market holds great promise. As a collective team, we delve into what these markets could offer Tomorrowland and how we can contribute in return. As a commercial company, we value not only the financial aspect but also the trustworthiness of any collaboration we undertake. Therefore, it may take a significant amount of time before we fully commit to a new venture. One area that has piqued our interest is the gaming industry, showcasing our diverse interests.
Ultimately, the strength of our brand and trademark portfolio, along with our intricate storyline, is the foundation of our IP valuation
How does Tomorrowland address cases of intellectual property infringement and unauthorized use of content?
It really varies. What recurs regularly, especially in the run-up to our festivals, is ticket fraud and third parties using our (audio)visual content without our permission to promote their own products/ services. We monitor this very actively and are consistent in our approach to countering such abuse. Usually, a friendly letter is sufficient but sometimes we have to take legal action. Last year, our livestream of the festival was misused to promote another festival in another country. We also recently bumped into a copycat of our CORE stage. For our suppliers, it is a contractual obligation “to keep the magic secret” during build-up of our festivals. We do everything we can, also from a legal point of view, to ensure the uniqueness of Tomorrowland remains intact.
How does Tomorrowland ensure GDPR compliance and enhance privacy measures?
When I joined the team, one of the first steps I took was to establish a DPO office. Privacy used to fall under my jurisdiction, and it still does, but now we have a dedicated team consisting of a DPO (with legal expertise) and a more technical profile. Their role is to oversee privacy matters across the board, whether related to our suppliers, government interactions, or customer-facing operations.
What specific challenges and legal considerations do you anticipate in the coming year?
We are excited to announce that, at the end of the year, we will be returning to Brazil. As we embark on this journey, it is crucial for us to surround ourselves with experts who possess knowledge of Brazilian law. From a legal standpoint, there are numerous aspects to consider, ranging from consumer law and tax law to labor law, each with its own specificities (under Brazilian law). There are many questions to be answered and much knowledge to be gained in the process.
Interview by Aude Ghespière
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