California megafest claims Ghana Afrobeats event attempted to patent ‘Chella,’ cybersquatted domain names and encroached into U.S. market
GOLDENVOICE, THE CONCERT giant behind Coachella, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the organizers of Afrochella, a Ghanaian music festival specializing in Afrobeats music.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday at a California district court and obtained by Rolling Stone, comes three years after AEG (which owns Goldenvoice) issued a warning to the Afrochella festival about infringing on the festival’s trademark.
“We understand that you are using Afrochella as the name of a music and arts festival. We note that your event is part of a larger celebration that is designed to attract those living abroad (including those in the United States) to return home to Africa,” AEG wrote to Afrochella organizers in 2019.
“Regardless of the celebration or event, your use of Afrochella as the name of a music and arts festival is highly likely to create a likelihood of confusion and mistake as to the affiliation, connection, or association of you with AEG and with Coachella. In particular, the public is likely to believe that you are authorized by, or affiliated with, AEG or Coachella. In fact you have even admitted that your event name and your event were inspired by Coachella. Similarly, comments to own your own Facebook page comment that your festival name is merely trading on the goodwill of the Coachella mark.”
Despite that initial warning, and following a pandemic-postponed fest in 2020, Afrochella returned to Accra, Ghana in 2021 and 2022. However, with the festival set to expand to South Africa later this month and organizers hosting offshoot U.S. events, Goldenvoice filed a lawsuit to further protect what they claim is ownership of all things “-chella.”
In addition to the similarly named festivals, Goldenvoice claims in their lawsuit that Afrochella organizers even attempted to patent both “Coachella” and “Chella” in Ghana, and noted that the “Chella” portion of their Afrochella logo uses a nearly identical font as Coachella does.
“Not simply content to imitate and attempt to trade on the goodwill of Chella and Coachella, Defendants even went so far as to apply in Ghana to register Coachella and Chella as their own trademarks, using the exact same stylization as Plaintiffs’ registered Coachella (stylized) mark,” the lawsuit states.
The organizers of Afrochella have also “expanded their infringing conduct into the United States by promoting, presenting, and/or sponsoring at least seven different music events using the mark Afrochella’ in the Los Angeles area, and have refused to curtail their infringing use of Plaintiff’s registered marks, necessitating the filing of this federal lawsuit,” the lawsuit continued.
Goldenvoice also provided social media evidence of how music fans are confusing the two festivals, including a tweet where someone wrote, “Tbh first time I heard the name Afrochella I thought Coachella was trying to enter the African sphere.” The lawsuit also presents evidence, via a tweet, showing that Afrochella organizer Edward Elohim attended the 2018 Coachella and admitted that the Indio, CA fest inspired Afrochella. “A Coachella themed event wasn’t going to be called the Gye Nyame Fest,” Elohim tweeted.
The lawsuit also noted that the African festival’s website is a North American-based domain, which helps it draw U.S. festivalgoers: “A substantial portion of the revenue generated from the travel tours sold on the website accessible at the afrochella.comdomain name are from US-based customers.”
In addition to an immediate restraining order on the Afrochella name, Goldenvoice is also seeking “damages for trademark and service mark infringement and unfair competition,” as well as $100,000 over claims of cybersquatting domain names.
The organizers of Coachella have previously filed legal action against any unrelated festivals that encroached on their brand, including a 2016 lawsuit against the organizers of underground music festival Hoodchella. In 2021, The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians attempted to host a New Year’s event called Coachella Day One 22, which prompted Goldenvoice and AEG to file a restraining order against promoter Live Nation; the tribe itself had sovereign immunity and could not be sued over using the Coachella name.