Business News Legal Live Business Top Stories

Coachella owner seeks to force a rebrand at another ‘chella’ festival: Washington DC’s Moechella

By | Published on Tuesday 28 June 2022


Owners of the Coachella festival have filed yet another trademark action in relation to an event that has ‘chella’ in its name, this time a Washington DC based street party called Moechella. In part the new trademark complaint cites a shooting that occurred at the most recent edition of that DC event earlier this month, insisting that the Coachella brand is negatively impacted when incidents of that kind happen at events with similar names.

AEG’s Goldenvoice, which promotes the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival, has sought to block a number of other events that have ‘chella’ in their name, arguing that such chella event brands imply a formal connection with the Californian music festival.

Events previously targeted include CarchellaBookchella and Floatchella, as well as a New Year’s Eve mini-festival that had the full Coachella name in its title, mainly because it was taking place in the Californian city of Coachella.

Moechella, which was first staged in 2019, describes itself as “an advocacy festival that is the intersection of culture and politics in DC”. It’s organised by a group called Long Live GoGo, a “collective of liberators” built around the funk sub-genre GoGo, which originated in the US capital.

Although past editions of the event have gone ahead without incident, this year a shooting occurred that resulted in the death of a fifteen year old, with three other people injured, including a police officer.

One of the people involved in organising Moechella told a local news network that the event was actually over when the shooting occurred. Meanwhile, on Instagram, the Long Live GoGo organisation said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that occurred in the hours following Moechella on 19 Jun 2022. We send our condolences to the victims and their families affected by this senseless tragedy and hope for a healthy recovery to those that were affected”.

“Moechella has always been a peaceful demonstration of our constitutionally protected right of assembly and free speech under the first amendment. The purpose of this demonstration has always been to speak out against the social inequities plaguing Washington DC, like gun violence, the lack of resources for the underserved community, police brutality and the need for DC statehood”.

“The gun violence in DC has gotten out of control and we need to address this plague in our community at the root. The violence that occurred is exactly what the Moechella demonstration is designed to address and prevent. We will continue to represent the heartbeat of DC culture and push for peace and equality. Let’s continue to uplift each other and find ways to deal with and activate true change for peace and programming in the nation’s capital. And keep us all safe”.

However, local police chiefs and politicians were critical of the festival and its organisers. In his statements, Police Chief Robert Contee repeatedly stressed that Moechella was an “unpermitted event”.

He told reporters: “We will certainly want to make sure people are held accountable when they hold unpermitted events in our city. This is one of the reasons why we don’t want unpermitted events taking place in our city. Unfortunately things like this can happen when you have the wrong mix of people or people who introduce firearms into a situation”.

Meanwhile, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press conference: “We have a child who was killed today at an event that did not have any proper planning. We need some accountability here”.

Given that Goldenvoice has been seeking to block various other chella events over the last couple of years, it’s no surprise that it is seeking to block Moechella too. Especially as organisers of the DC festival have been trying to trademark their event’s name.

It was in response to that trademark application that Goldenvoice formally filed legal papers with the US Trademark Trial And Appeal Board last week.

In that filing the Coachella owner said: “On information and belief, applicant intentionally selected the Moechella mark to trade on the goodwill of the Coachella marks. As one media article explains, ‘the name Moechella is a combination of the popular music festival Coachella and Washington DC’s slang word for ‘friend’ which is ‘moe’”.

“The use of Moechella would be recognised by consumers as referring uniquely and unmistakably to opposer and opposer’s festival”, it went on. “Opposer is not connected with applicant or applicant’s services in any way”.

Not only is the DC event called Moechella, but in promotional materials Moechella is written in lettering that very much mimics the Coachella logo. “Applicant has attempted to draw a false association between his event making use of the Moechella mark and opposer’s own festival by using the same stylisation for Moechella as opposer uses for Coachella”, the legal filing continued.

Although it seems likely that Goldenvoice would have been seeking to block the registration of the Moechella mark either way, its legal filing nevertheless noted the shooting at this year’s edition.

“Tragic headlines of shootings, at least one of them fatal, followed the event, resulting in a flurry of negative press concerning the event”, it stated. “In fact, the mayor is quoted as having said, ‘We have a child who was killed today at an event that did not have any proper planning'”.

“On information and belief”, it then continued, “the negative publicity generated by applicant’s Moechella event reflects negatively on opposer. Thus, applicant’s continued use and registration of the Moechella mark will continue to irreparably harm opposer and to damage its goodwill and the goodwill in its Coachella marks”.

We await to see how the Trademark Court rules – and whether Moechella will be forced to pick a new name in the future.