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Goldenvoice Sues Live Nation Over Copycat Coachella

The AEG-owned promoter is accusing its rival of advertising and selling tickets to a new Southern California festival that it says infringes the Coachella trademark.

As it turns out, two Coachella music festivals are set to take place in the Southern California desert over the next few months – and Goldenvoice is taking legal action to ensure there’s only room for one of them.

Today, lawyers for the AEG-owned promoter and its world-famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival — which has taken place on the Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif. since 1999 — filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in California claiming that a new music event, Coachella Day One 22, is infringing the Coachella trademark.

In an interesting twist, Goldenvoice is suing not the festival’s promoter – the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, a Native American tribe which is shielded from legal action due to sovereign immunity – but rather AEG’s main rival Live Nation, which is being accused of contributory infringement for advertising and selling tickets to Coachella Day One 22 on its Ticketmaster website and mobile app, in what Goldenvoice says amounts to direct defiance of two separate cease-and-desist letters it sent to the promoter in October and November.

The complaint further states that Ticketmaster also advertises and sells tickets to other music events hosted at Coachella Crossroads — the outdoor venue where Coachella Day One 22 is slated to take place — in a further breach of the Coachella trademark.

Also named as a defendant in the suit is Bluehost (d/b/a Unified Layer), the service provider for the website coachellacrossroads.com, which promotes Coachella Day One 22 and other music events held at the Coachella Crossroads venue. Both defendants are being sued for contributory trademark and service mark infringement, contributory false designation of origin and unfair competition.

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In the Dec. 13 complaint filed by attorney David J. Steele of Tucker Ellis LLP, the plaintiffs ask the court to “issue a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction enjoining and restraining” Live Nation and Bluehost from further engaging in or contributing to “advertising, promoting, marketing, franchising, selling and offering for sale any goods or services in connection with” the Coachella trademark. It also asks that the court bar the defendants from “using any domain name, or social media account, that is identical or confusingly similar to” the Coachella trademark; engaging in any unfair competition with the plaintiffs; or “engaging in any deceptive acts.”

Goldenvoice is additionally requesting that the court award it damages for infringement as well as unfair competition, charging that the defendants are “intentionally trading on the goodwill of” the Coachella name by aiding in the promotion of “a directly competitive live music event.” It also wants all profits resulting from Live Nation and Bluehost’s alleged contributory infringement, as well as reimbursement for “the costs of corrective advertising” to unlink any associations that have been made between the two events among the general public. Goldenvoice is additionally asking for prejudgment interest on all infringement damages, attorneys’ fees and the costs of bringing the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, Coachella Day One 22 is described as “part festival, part carnival, and part circus” and advertises such features as LED installations, interactive environments, aerial artists, live painters and more — all echoing the original Coachella’s mixture of live music and art.

Goldenvoice also claims that the Twenty-Nine Palms tribe copied the look of the original Coachella’s advertising, promotional and marketing materials, “including incorporating similar color schemes along with design elements (e.g., a Ferris wheel, and silhouettes of palm trees and the mountains surrounding the Coachella Valley).” It further alleges that the use of “Day One” in the festival’s moniker is “strikingly similar” to the way Coachella uses the terms “Day One,” “Day Two” and Day Three” in identifying its schedule and lineup.

Goldenvoice claims all of this creates “a likelihood of consumer confusion and false association” between the unrelated events. To prop up its case, it goes on to provide evidence of “actual confusion” by noting that ticket reseller TicketSmarter’s listing for Coachella Day One 22 is accompanied by an event description that “specifically references” Goldenvoice’s Coachella festival.

Slated to take place on Dec. 31, 2021 approximately five miles from the Empire Polo Field, Coachella Day One 22’s list of performers includes Shaquille O’Neal (performing as DJ Diesel), E-40 and Getter.

According to the complaint, the Twenty-Nine Palms tribe filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on or around Apr. 11, 2018 to register the Coachella Crossroads trademark, but that the USPTO issued an “Office Action” against the application on Apr. 23, 2018, citing a likelihood of confusion with Goldenvoice’s event given that it would be similarly providing entertainment services. On or around Oct. 23, 2018, Twenty-Nine Palms filed a response to that action in which it sought to amend the services provided by Coachella Crossroads as “providing sports facilities for sporting events, sports and athletic competitions.”

After the application was published for opposition on Dec. 11, 2018, Goldenvoice caught wind of the filing and filed an extension of time to oppose the application on Jan. 8, 2019; it entered “informal discussions” with Twenty-Nine Palms later that year. During those discussions, the plaintiffs claim they were misled by Twenty-Nine Palms’ counsel, who said the Coachella Crossroads venue would only be used for local community events including youth soccer, and that any music or live entertainment would be “incidental.” As a result of that, Goldenvoice chose not to oppose the trademark application.

The complaint notes that the Coachella Crossroads venue first began using the Coachella trademark earlier this year and that it has since hosted and promoted concerts for such well-known artists as Toby Keith and Miranda Lambert.

After learning of these activities, along with the planned Day One 22 festival, and learning of Live Nation’s involvement, Goldenvoice served Live Nation with a cease-and-desist letter on Oct. 28, 2021, after which it claims the Ticketmaster listing for Coachella Day One 22 was changed to read simply “Day One 22.” However, Goldenvoice claims that the event continues to be listed as “Coachella Day One 22” in some of Live Nation’s advertising.

Goldenvoice sent a second cease-and-desist letter to Live Nation on Nov. 12 but claim that its demands went unaddressed. Cease-and-desist letters were additionally sent to Bluehost/United Layer and Twenty-Nine Palms, also to no avail.

Representatives for Live Nation and AGE have not responded to Billboard’s requests for comment.

Goldenvoice, which canceled Coachella’s 2020 and 2021 editions due to the pandemic, will hold next year’s festival over two weekends, Apr. 15-17 and Apr. 22-24. According to multiple reports, Travis Scott — who was slated to headline the 2022 festival alongside Rage Against the Machine — has been removed from the lineup in the wake of his Nov. 5 performance at Astroworld, where 10 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a deadly crowd crush.