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Court declines to dismiss Goldenvoice’s Coachella trademark lawsuit against Live Nation

By | Published on Wednesday 16 March 2022

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A judge in California has declined to dismiss the lawsuit filed against Live Nation and its Ticketmaster business by the Goldenvoice subsidiary of its main rival AEG in relation to it selling tickets to a music event with Coachella in its name. A music event in the Californian city of Coachella, mind. But not in any way affiliated with the Goldenvoice-owned Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival.

This dispute all relates to a music event that took place in Coachella as part of the 2021/22 New Year festivities. That event was staged at a venue called Coachella Crossroads and was originally billed as Coachella Day One 22, with tickets being sold via Live Nation’s Ticketmaster. Goldenvoice owns various Coachella trademarks linked to its festival and argued that the New Years event was infringing those trademarks.

However, both the Coachella Crossroads venue and the Coachella Day One 22 event are run by the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, with the whole thing taking place alongside the Spotlight 29 Casino that the Native American tribe owns. It would be more logical to take action against the tribe than the ticketing company they use, but the leadership of that tribe are arguably shielded from such legal action due to so called sovereign immunity. Which is why Goldenvoice sued Live Nation.

As part of its legal action, Goldenvoice sought and got an injunction prohibiting Ticketmaster from listing any event that uses the Coachella brand. Although, by the time that injunction was issued, the Live Nation ticketing site had already started referring to the New Years event as simply Day One 22. And ultimately the Coachella Crossroads venue itself also changed the name of the event to ‘Day One 22 NYE at Coachella Crossroads’.

However, despite the New Years event being rebranded, Goldenvoice’s claim of contributory trademark infringement against Live Nation – relating to its original listing of the event as Coachella Day One 22 – continues to go through the motions. For its part, Live Nation has been trying to have the case dismissed mainly on the basis that Goldenvoice’s lawsuit does not actively involve an “indispensable party” to the dispute, that being the Twenty-Nine Palms tribe.

In its motion to have the case dismissed, Live Nation argued that this legal action was really a dispute between the AEG company and the Twenty-Nine Palms tribe over “the name of its ancestral land”, and Goldenvoice suing Live Nation was a “transparent attempt to end-run the protections afforded to the tribe by longstanding federal law”.

In its ruling on Live Nation’s motion for dismissal, the court hearing the case noted that Live Nation had identified five ways in which Twenty-Nine Palms has an interest in this case, the argument being that – by not having the tribe actually involved in the legal action – those interests were threatened.

Those five interests included the tribe’s “authorised use of the Coachella Crossroads mark pursuant to an oral contract with plaintiffs’ parent company AEG” and “the benefit of its bargain with defendant under an agreement wherein Ticketmaster is the ‘exclusive ticket seller for events held by Twenty-Nine Palms at Coachella Crossroads for five years'”.

On top of that, there’s the tribe’s “sovereignty, its ownership rights to the Coachella Crossroads mark, and an ‘historical and cultural interest in referring to its property as Coachella'”.

However, the court considered each of those interests in turn, and in every case concluded that the interests of Twenty-Nine Palms would not be hampered or impaired by this dispute between Goldenvoice and Live Nation proceeding without them being an actual party to the lawsuit. As a result, Live Nation’s motion for dismissal was declined.