The founder of the Washington D.C.-based go-go music protest festival Moechella has responded to a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Coachella, suggesting the organisations should “work together”.
Goldenvoice, the organisation that operates Coachella, accused Moechella’s Justin Johnson and Kelsye Adams of creating “intentionally trading on the goodwill of the Coachella name” by using such a similar name to the festival, as well as using a “strikingly similar” logo.
The suit also cited an incident that occurred at Moechella that allegedly caused “reputational harm” to Coachella. A 15-year-old boy was killed and three other people were shot at an “unpermitted Moechella event” in Washington DC on June 19, 2022, which, it was argued, was “even more concerning tham the trademark infringement itself.”
According to the Washington Post, 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’.”
In response, Johnson told Billboard that he’d been surprised to learn of Coachella’s lawsuit because he said he’d already agreed with their lawyers that he would “pivot away” from the “Moechella” name and had been continuing to do so.
“These events are protests that have spawned out of the gentrification of D.C. and the erasure of the culture in this city, not festivals for monetary gain,” Johnson said. “It’s surprising that a multi-billion dollar company is approaching a non-profit organization like this.”
Johnson later told Fox 5 that the name was never chosen with the intention of “profitable gain”, explaining: “I want people to know the root of it, that it’s rooted in protest. 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.”
Johnson called on Coachella to work with Moechella, rather than against it, encouraging them to see it 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 said. “I feel like this is a perfect opportunity to work together, not against each other.”
This occasion is not the first time Coachella has sued another organisation that has riffed on its name. Most recently, it filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Afrochella, a Ghanan festival, which later shut down after its 2022 event.
Goldenvoice also sued Live Nation over a festival they planned on host on New Years Eve 2021, called Coachella Day One 22, just five miles away from Coachella’s site in Indio, California. The case was later settled out of court.