Black Coffee performing at the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California in April 2022. (Image: Courtesy)

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its organizer, Goldenvoice, are suing Ghana’s Afrochella for an alleged infringement on their trademark.

In the lawsuit filed in a California federal court on Wednesday (October 5), Coachella and Goldenvoice claim that Afrochella is “intentionally trading on the goodwill of [Coachella and Goldenvoice’s] well-known COACHELLA and CHELLA festivals and trademarks by actively promoting music events in the United States and in Ghana using the confusingly similar mark ‘AFROCHELLA’ and by fraudulently attempting to register Plaintiffs’ actual trademarks as their own.”

This 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.”

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 domain 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.

Afrochella 2022 is scheduled to take place on December 28 and 29 at El Wak Stadium in Accra, Ghana. Artists on the bill include headliners Stonebwoy, Ayra Starr, Burna Boy, Fireboy DML, Black Sherif, and more.

Written with context from Ameyaw Debrah.