Coachella Asks Court to Fast-Track Its Filmchella Lawsuit

"Chella" may be how some Coachella goers hashtag their Instagram posts, but is it a protectable trademark?
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2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

World-renowned music and arts festival Coachella and new film fest Filmchella are in a heated battle over which of them, if either, has legal claim to "chella."

Coachella earlier this month sued Trevor Simms, the organizer of the three-day film festival in Joshua Tree, Calif., for trademark infringement, cybersquatting and unfair competition — and now it says he's evading service.

The music festival is asking U.S. district judge Beverly Reid O'Connell to bar Filmchella from using any trademarks similar to Coachella in connection with the event, including in domain names and social media accounts. Those marks include Coachella, Chella, Chela and Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. It alleges Simms had been marketing his event as "Coachella for Movies."

Coachella attorney David Steele argues that since filing the suit, Simms has "redoubled" his infringing activity — and despite hiring two private investigators, visiting multiple addresses associated with Simms and interviewing landlords and other residents, they haven't been able to track him down. 

Meanwhile, Simms says he's being harrassed multiple times a day. "They're trying to shut me down and steal my property like greedy corporate monsters," he says. "I offered to partner up with them, but they'd rather try to steal it from me."

After Simms' trademark for Filmchella was published for opposition, Coachella challenged it. This lawsuit followed. (Note: Trademark registrations for "Oldchella" and "Glamchella" appear to have gone unchallenged.)

Joshua Tree National Park is in the Coachella Valley, so the geographic nature of the event names will likely factor in the court's analysis — something Simms also mentioned.

"Their legal case is weak," he says. "Not only is their trademark the name of the region where we both operate in, but their trademark application for 'chella' in 'events, social gatherings namely music' is incomplete. They've yet to show usage."

Filmchella is set to run Sept. 29-Oct. 1, so the music fest is asking the court to expedite its claims and hear its motion for a preliminary injunction on Sept. 11.