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Coachella’s next lawsuit: Filmchella

The new film festival has provoked the ire of lawyers for Goldenvoice after advertising its event as the "Coachella for movies" and registering the URL filmcoachella.com

By Jon Chapple on 17 Aug 2017

Coachella 2017, weekend two, Chris Miller, Filmchella

Weekend two of Coachella 2017

image © Chris Miller/Coachella

The organiser of a Californian film festival has become the latest target of Goldenvoice’s lawyers over its use of the suffix “-chella”.

In a complaint filed in the US district court for central California on Tuesday, lawyers representing Coachella Music Festival and its promoter, Goldenvoice, accuse Filmchella founder Robert Trevor Simms and up to 20 other defendants (“Does 1–20”) of servicemark infringement, false designation of origin, brand dilution, cybersquatting and unfair competition over “attempts to operate a directly competitive festival” close to the Coachella festival site in Indio.

Filmchella, says law firm Tucker Ellis, is “trading on the goodwill of [the] plaintiffs’ famous Coachella festival” by describing its event as the “Coachella for movies” and “the rock’n’roll festival for filmmakers and fans” and registering the web address filmcoachella.com (which redirects to filmchella.com).

Coachella Music Festival LLC owns several trademarks and servicemarks associated with the festival, including the Coachella servicemark and “Chella” for use on shirts and T-shirts; an trademark for use of “Chella” in “musical” and “cultural and arts events”, “campground facilities”, “hotel accommodation services”, drinks, transportation and other clothing is not not yet registered.

Filmchella’s application for the Filmchella servicemark was originally accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in April 2017.

“Plaintiffs appreciate the enthusiasm shown by defendants but they simply want defendants to use a distinctive name of their own”

Goldenvoice, owned by AEG, is known to be robust in using legal means to defend its copyrights, having sued Hoodchella festival (now called Noise in the Hood), Cannabis grower Lowell Farms (for selling a ‘Coachella blend’) and Urban Outfitters, which allegedly sold clothes marketed under the Coachella name, in the past 18 months.

The latest complaint says Simms has not responded to “repeated requests” to change Filmchella’s name to one which “avoids confusion, conflict and false association with the famous Coachella festival” – although Filmchella has changed “some of their marketing materials” to read Filmchilla, with an “i”, that doesn’t go far enough, say the lawyers – and while Goldenvoice has “no objection to defendants holding a festival of their own”, it “simply want[s] defendants to use a distinctive name of their own”.

The promoter is seeking monetary damages, along with a restraining order that prevents the defendants from, among other things, using or registering any name similar to Coachella or engaging in “unfair competition” with the festival.

The inaugural Filmchella is scheduled for 29 September to 1 October in Joshua Tree, California.


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