After years of watching retailers and lifestyle companies appropriate the Coachella brand for unauthorized use, the festival’s organizers are going after some of the fashion world’s most blatant offenders with a lawsuit aimed at a bootleg Coachella clothing line.
Coachella owner Goldenvoice has filed a copyright lawsuit in U.S. Central District Court of California against Urban Outfitters and its retail brand Free People, accusing the clothing line of trademark infringement, tortious interference and unfair competition for creating a Coachella-themed clothing line and then marketing the items by purchasing keywords like “Coachella” on Google Adwords and using the term in website metatags.
“(Goldenvoice) owns numerous registrations for their Coachella marks, including the registration for apparel,” Coachella attorney David Steele wrote in the civil complaint filed on March 14 (read it here). “(Goldenvoice) also sells sponsorships and licenses the use of the Coachella marks to others, including for apparel; however, (Goldenvoice) is extremely selective and sponsorships and licenses are very limited.”
According to examples provided by Goldenvoice, Urban Outfitters’s brand Free People simply added the word “Coachella” to items it was selling on its site that generally fit with the popular look and trend of Coachella-related items. While none of the clothing actually have the words Coachella written on them, the items are marketed to attendees and others hoping to adorn themselves in Coachella-inspired garb.
The lawsuit is the latest attempt by Goldenvoice to claw back control of the world-famous festival brand, which has blossomed into a Bohemian lifestyle and fashion movement that’s both celebrated and derided in popular culture. Goldenvoice has gone after companies in the past for unauthorized use of the festival trademark in promotional advertisements and last April, Goldenvoice filed a lawsuit against Phillips 66 for running a sweepstakes offering Coachella tickets as a prize. But the filing against Urban Outfitters is the first time Goldenvoice has sued a brand for creating a Coachella clothing line, arguing that Free People never had permission to use the trademarks.
“Defendants’ use of the Coachella marks is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive consumers that Defendants are sponsors or licensees,” the civil complaint reads. “Defendants have ignored Plaintiffs’ demands to cease their unlawful conduct. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have been forced to file this action to protect the famous Coachella marks and to protect the public.”
Lawyers for Coachella also argue that the infringements harm the festival’s current apparel sponsor H&M, which has collaborated on clothing for the event since 2009. In 2015, the Swedish retailer unveiled the H&M Loves Coachella brand, sold at the company’s 350 stores in North America and at a pop-up shop on the festival grounds. Coachella also has a jewelry licensing deal with the Pandora group and Steele estimates Goldenvoice spends $650,000 a year promoting and advertising the festival, which attracts 100,000 people a day to the event which is spread out over two weekends.
“Defendants are using the Coachella marks to offer goods that are directly competitive with those offered by Coachella, its licensees, and/or its sponsors under the Coachella marks,” the lawsuit reads. “For example, on Defendants’ website available at freepeople.com, Defendants are offering for sale at least four products incorporating the Coachella marks into the product name.”
Besides ripping off Coachella’s trademarks and branding, Urban Outfitters is trading on the festival’s good will and positive vibes, Steele alleges.
“The music, the food, the art, and of course, the fellowship of other attendees,” Steele wrote, “taken together, makes Coachella more than just a concert to attend — it truly is an experience.”
Dude. Totally. See You in the Sahara Tent.