Coachella lawsuit: Indian tribe hits back at music festival plaintiffs
The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians Thursday hit back at a trademark infringement lawsuit brought by the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival against the online ticketing vendor for the tribe’s New Year’s Eve event, originally known as “Coachella DayOne22.”
Although Coachella and parent company AEG didn’t sue Twenty-Nine Palms directly — the tribe has sovereign immunity — the Indian group’s chairman, Darrell Mike, said the complaint is a “direct attack on us and the region.”
The plaintiffs allege that the tribe is “intentionally trading on the goodwill” of the annual Coachella festival, causing a likelihood of “consumer confusion and false association” with the original event.
In a statement, Mike said the dispute reflects the “increased competitive nature of music events in the region and the attempt at monopolizing the location of Coachella as a solely owned brand name.”
A Los Angeles federal judge this week granted the Coachella Valley festival and AEG a temporary restraining order putting a stop to online promotion and ticket sales for the tribe’s NYE event, at which rapper Lil Wayne is headlining at a venue called Coachella Crossroads.
Like the Coachella Valley festival, the tribe’s event is advertised as an outdoor music festival that features numerous forms of entertainment and artists.
“Twenty-Nine Palms has gone to great lengths to imitate” AEG’s Coachella and related trademarks, the suit contends.
But in its statement, the tribe said AEG is attempting to claim “ownership” of the Coachella name, “even though their event does not take place in Coachella,” but rather in Indio.
“Amidst this matter, vendors are being threatened that if they work with the Tribe to produce DayOne22, they will be ousted as vendors” for future AEG events.
Mike said that although the tribe was under no obligation to do so, “we have respectfully removed Coachella from the title of our event on marketing and sales materials living online. We hope that we can move away from this matter, so DayOne22 taking place at Coachella Crossroads, in Coachella, can be celebrated in the spirit for which it was created.”
The Coachella festival was not held in person in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A virtual Coachella event took place instead. The multi- day event is scheduled to return next year on April 15-17 and April 22-24.
AEG says it has no objection to the tribe holding a festival of their own or hosting events at its Coachella Crossroads venue, but it must adopt and use an event name, venue name and trademark that avoids the possibility of consumer confusion.
Held annually at the Empire Polo Club, the Coachella Valley festival is among the most acclaimed contemporary music festivals in the world. The festival site, which includes the festival grounds, on-site camping, parking and support operations, encompass over 800 acres.
Attendance for the perennially sold-out festival, aggregated over the multi-day event, is estimated at 750,000 attendees, according to the plaintiffs.