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Coachella’s Owner Sues Afrochella Promoter for Trademark Infringement

Coachella lawyers say organizers of the West African musical festival tried to trademark the Coachella name in Ghana.

Coachella Music Festival is suing the West African festival promoter behind the Afrochella festival, saying music festival organizers in Ghana not only infringed on Coachella’s trademarks when it attempted to register the Afrochella name, but allegedly also tried to register the Coachella name in Ghana through the country’s intellectual property office.

Goldenvoice owns the trademark for both Coachella and the word Chella, preventing it from being added to other event titles in a way that could confuse fans.  

Lawyers for Coachella owner Goldenvoice say Afrochella is allegedly confusing music fans that might believe the African music festival is sanctioned by Coachella. Lawyers for Coachella have filed suit in both U.S. court and in Ghana, the home country of event management company BBNZ Live Limited, a shareholder of the Afrochella music festival, and media rights company Culture Management Group Limited, the festival’s parent company.  

Coachella’s attorneys allege that Afrochella organizers chose the name to “create a suggestion that it was a version of Coachella,” the long-running music festival held in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs every April. Each year, Coachella brings 250,000 fans to the desert over two weekends for performances by artists like last year’s headliners Harry Styles, Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd

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First launched in 2017, Afrochella takes place at the end of December in Ghana’s capital city of Accra and plays host to a number of African contemporary music acts, including this year’s headliners Burna Boy and StoneBwoy. The name Afrochella was chosen, according to a 2017 tweet from Afrochella organizer Edward Elohim (and cited by Coachella’s attorneys), because the festival was “Coachella themed.” 

It’s unclear why Afrochella tried to register the Coachella trademark in Ghana, but the applications for both Coachella and Afrochella were denied. The United States Patent Office denied Afrochella organizers’ attempt to trademark the Afrochella name in May 2018, citing a likelihood of confusion. 

“Despite repeated requests from Plaintiffs, Defendants have refused to adopt their own distinctive event name and marks,” Goldenvoice’s attorney David J. Steele with law firm Tucker Ellis writes in the Wednesday (Oct. 5) complaint against Afrochella’s organizers, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Steele has filed for injunctive relief in both Ghana and the U.S., ordering Afrochella to stop using the name. This year, Afrochella organizers allegedly promoted the African festival at seven different music events around Los Angeles. 

Goldenvoice is suing for trademark infringement, false designation of origin for Afrochella organizers’ attempt to register the Coachella trademark in Ghana and cybersquatting over the afrochella.com website, and unfair business practices.