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Live Nation Can’t Escape Coachella Trademark Lawsuit, Judge Says

The concert giant argued Coachella's lawsuit targeted the wrong defendant, but a federal judge says the company must face the case.

A federal judge is refusing to end a trademark lawsuit filed by Goldenvoice against Live Nation over a rival concert with “Coachella” in its name, rejecting the argument that the case really should have been filed against the local Native American tribe that put on the show.

AEG-owned Goldenvoice, which operates the massive yearly festival, sued last year over a New Year’s Eve concert called “Coachella Day One 22,” and quickly won a court order barring Live Nation’s Ticketmaster from selling tickets under that name. The event went down as planned under the rebranded “Day One 22.”

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Since then, Live Nation has pushed to end the case, arguing the real target should have been the Native American tribe that hosted the event: Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians. Since Goldenvoice failed to name a group that’s “indispensable” to the dispute, Live Nation says, the case should be dismissed.

But on Monday, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner rejected that argument. He said the tribe’s interests would be adequately protected even if it doesn’t participate in the case – and he called some of Live Nation’s arguments to the contrary “exaggerated and simply untrue.”

Goldenvoice, a unit of AEG, has hosted the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, since 1999. The yearly event is one of the biggest festivals in America, drawing a lineup of A-list artists and roughly 750,000 guests over two weekends each April.

Just down the road is an unaffiliated venue called Coachella Crossroads, operated by Twenty-Nine Palms. Though the two sides reached an informal agreement in 2018 that the tribe would not host music events, last year Twenty-Nine Palms announced “Coachella Day One 22,” a New Year’s Eve concert featuring performances by Lil Wayne, E-40 and Getter.

When Goldenvoice sued in December, it intentionally left Twenty-Nine Palms off the lawsuit. That’s because tribes are typically shielded from such lawsuits by sovereign immunity. Instead, the lawsuit targeted Live Nation, arguing the company was liable for so-called contributory trademark infringement for its role in advertising and selling tickets to the event on TicketMaster.

After the event was held under the new name, Live Nation moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the case was “at its core” a dispute between Goldenvoice and Twenty-Nine Palms over “the name of its ancestral land.” Filing the case instead against a ticket vendor, Live Nation said, was a “transparent attempt to end-run the protections afforded to the Tribe by longstanding federal law.”

Monday’s decision rejecting those arguments means that Live Nation must continue to defend the case for the time being. A spokeswoman for Live Nation declined to comment; a rep for Twenty-Nine Palms did not immediately return requests for comment. An attorney for Goldenvoice also didn’t return a request for comment.