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Coachella Is Suing African Festival Afrochella For Trademark Infringement

The organizers behind Coachella are suing founders of a similarly named event out of Ghana called “Afrochella.”

Court documents indicate Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its organizer Goldenvoice have filed a trademark infringement against the Ghanaian music festival.

(Photo: @afrochella)

What is Coachella

An annual event, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. Located about 26 miles from Palm Springs, Indio is a city in Riverside County, located in the Coachella Valley of Southern California’s Colorado Desert region.

The festival was co-founded by Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen in 1999 and is organized by Goldenvoice, a subsidiary of AEG Presents. In 2022, the typically three-day festival was extended to six days and drew some 750,000 people and such major music names as Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Swedish House Mafia, Weeknd (who have replaced Kanye), Lil Baby, Megan Thee Stallion, 21 Savage, Danny Elfman, Doja Cat, among others.

And it is a profitable festival — in 2017, it made more than $114 million in profits, according to the Grammy Awards.

About Afrochella

Afrochella, which will be on Dec. 28 and 29 this year, takes place annually in Ghana’s capital city, Accra. Headliners include African artists like Burna Boy and Stonebwoy, alongside Ayra Starr and Firebox DML, to name a few.

Afrochella was launched in 2017 with co-founders Ken Agyapong and Abdul Karim Abdullah, both men who had made names throwing parties in New York, according to EMY Africa. Abdullah was born in the Bronx and lived there until age 5, when his family moved back to Ghana. He returned to the Bronx in 2001 for junior high and high school and then attended Syracuse University. Passionate about music, particularly Ghanaian music, he wanted to start a festival.

“I wanted to create an experience that celebrated culture as I understood it growing up. It was hard being an African kid in the Bronx. You had to be mentally, emotionally and physically tough. But as an adult I realized the issue was the lack of proper education and information,” he told NYC The Official Guide.

He continued, “I know that people like myself, who were too American to be African and too African to be American, have the best opportunity and vantage point at being a bridge. Afrochella is essentially that bridge between the worlds — Africa and the diaspora.”

He described it as, “a cultural festival that celebrates Blackness from all over the diaspora. Our key areas for communicating culture are through food, art, fashion and music. Afrochella is our way of changing the narrative of Africa. It’s for the diaspora and all of our allies.”

In 2018, more than 9,000 people attended Afrochella, Here Magazine reported.

The Lawsuit

The lawsuit accuses Afrochella of cashing in on the Coachella’s brand reputation.

“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,” court papers stated.

Although Afrochella takes place in Ghana, reps of the American event Coachella charge that Afrochella is committing trademark infringement.

“[Afrochella] 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,” court documents state.

“[Afrochella have] have refused to adopt their own distinctive event name… despite repeated requested from the Plaintiffs,” reps of Coachella stated.

Coachella reps say the two names are too similar and are causing consumers to be confused.

“Despite repeated requests from Plaintiffs, Defendants have refused to adopt their own distinctive event name and marks, and as a result, instances of actual confusion have already appeared on social media,” the suit says.

Longtime Dispute

Afrochella caught the ire of Coachella when it first launched. Tt was warned about possible trademark infringement, having even described itself as a “Coachella-themed event.”

Pitchfork media outlet reached out to both reps for Coachella and Afrochella for comment. Neither responded.

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