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Moechella founder responds to Coachella lawsuit

The lawsuit against the music protest is the latest in a long line of suits launched against other events over the “Chella” name

By James Hanley on 08 Feb 2023

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The founder of Washington DC-based go-go music protest Moechella has responded to a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Coachella, calling on the organisations to “work together”.

Goldenvoice is suing Moechella’s Justin Johnson and Kelsye Adams over the event’s name, accusing them of creating “intentionally trading on the goodwill of the Coachella name and using a “strikingly similar” logo.

The suit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, adds that “even more concerning tham the trademark infringement itself,” was an incident on 19 June 2022, where a 15-year-old boy was killed and three other people were shot at an “unpermitted Moechella event” in Washington DC. Such incidents, it says, result in “reputational harm” to Coachella.

The Washington Post reports that Coachella is asking “for an injunction against use of the name and logo as well as any profits made using the term Moechella, plus punitive damages, attorney’s fees and compensation for ‘corrective advertising’.”

However, Johnson, who has previously said he is not going to stop using the name, says he wants people to understand the “cultural significance” of Moechella.

“I want people to know the root of it, that it’s rooted in protest,” he tells Fox 5. “This is a protest first and it’s something that was built to help the community elevate their voice, uplift them, which it has done in the last four years so it’s never been something that we wanted to monetise or use for profitable gain.

“It’s a name that the people really gave us – Moechella really named itself – I’m just the vessel that it’s working through. [It’s] not something that we sat down and conspired as far as a name and [think] we’re going to mislead people and deceive people, it’s been all pure organic energy out of Washington DC culture.”

“I feel like this is a perfect opportunity to work together, not against each other”

Johnson is calling on Coachella to see the case as “an opportunity to knock down one of your pillars and uplift the Black community”.

“I know that Goldenvoice started a Goldenvoice Black sector where you all clearly stated that you wanted to uplift cultural arts so this is the epitome of that,” he says. “I feel like this is a perfect opportunity to work together, not against each other.”

Coachella Festival, whose 2023 edition is scheduled for Indio Park, California from 14-16 and 21-23 April, registered the “Coachella” trademark for musical events in 2006.

The Moechella lawsuit is the latest in a long line of lawsuits launched by Coachella/Goldenvoice against other events over the “Chella” name.

AEG and Live Nation settled their trademark dispute over a rival music event called ‘Coachella Day One 22’ earlier this year, while Connecticut’s Floatchella was renamed Floatfest, Music on the Mystic River following a complaint from Coachella promoter AEG Presents.

Elsewhere, Los Angeles festival Hoodchella was rechristened Noise in the Hood after coming to an “amicable agreement” with AEG/Goldenvoice following legal action in 2016, and a California court ruled in Coachella’s favour in its dispute with film festival Filmchella in 2017.

It also sued Ghana’s Afrochella for copyright infringement last year. Afrochella organisers have since announced that the 2022 event was the festival’s last.


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