Hollywood Docket: Coachella Trademark Fight Settles

Plus, Warner Bros. beats a Batcycle suit and Hollywood Reporter Power Lawyer Bobby Schwartz moves to a new firm.
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2017 Coachella Valley Festival

Just days after rumors about the headliners of Coachella's 2019 lineup began to swirl, the California music festival averted a trial over its trademarks.

Coachella in August 2017 sued Filmchella founder Trevor Simms claiming, among other things, that it has exclusive use of the term "chella" for festivals — even though its marquee event is named after its setting, Coachella Valley.

Last fall, the court entered a preliminary injunction that barred Simms from using Filmchella or Filmchilla for his independent film festival, which took place before the injunction was granted. U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner on Sept. 10, however, denied Coachella's motion for summary judgment on the issue of trademark infringement liability.

Klausner found a reasonable jury could find there is no likelihood of confusion between the world-famous Coachella and Simms' startup fest Filmchella because "the festivals are different from one another and there is no clear evidence that the festivals do or will compete directly with each other." (Read the full decision here.)

A trial was set to begin Tuesday, but the parties reached a resolution last week. 

According to a stipulated permanent injunction filed Oct. 4, Simms won't use Filmchella and will transfer the domain name to Coachella. 

Simms can't comment on the terms of the settlement, but says he's happy with the resolution and is looking forward to moving on. His new event, the Abbot Kinney Fantastic Film Festival, is set for Oct. 20.

In other entertainment legal news:

— Boom. Pow. Wham. Warner Bros. has knocked out a merchandise royalties lawsuit over the Batcycle that was used in the '60s Batman TV series. David Kaufman launched the legal fight in 2016, just days after Batcycle designer Richard Korkes died. He claimed to be a third-party beneficiary to a contract in which Korkes assigned Batcycle rights to Twentieth Century Fox Television in exchange for a share of merchandising profits and accused Warners of failing to pay Korkes his proper share of earnings after it launched a new line of merchandise in 2012. Arizona federal judge James Teilborg granted Warners' motion for summary judgment, finding Kaufman failed to prove the existence of a merchandising contract. Kaufman has filed a motion for reconsideration. 

— Bliss Media is asking a California judge to enforce an arbitration award of $1.2 million it was granted in a dispute over the China-set Orlando Bloom thriller S.M.A.R.T. Chase, which opened overseas last fall. Das Films sued Bliss in October 2016, claiming it was shut out of the film in violation of its contract. Bliss moved to invoke an arbitration clause in their agreement and claimed the litigation was an attempt to force a settlement by creating bad press. According to a petition filed Thursday, an arbitrator in August awarded Bliss about $523,000 in damages plus another $695,000 in attorneys' fees and costs. A hearing is set for Nov. 6.

— Producers of the Tom Cruise action film American Made can't yet sue an aviation company in connection with a deadly plane crash that happened on location. An avalanche of litigation followed the 2015 crash, including a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of one of the men who was killed filed against the producers, including Cross Creek Pictures and Imagine Entertainment. Those defendants then sued S&S Aviation, arguing that they should be indemnified from any potential damages because S&S was responsible for the aircraft and failed to inspect, repair, maintain and operate it. The aviation company moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the claims are not yet ripe. U.S. District Judge Michael L. Brown agreed, noting that the filmmakers repeatedly explain that they have not yet been found liable in the wrongful death suit but are seeking indemnification just in case. (Read the full opinion here.) On Oct. 4, the producers filed a notice of appeal.

— Veteran entertainment litigator and THR Power Lawyer Robert "Bobby" Schwartz is joining Quinn Emanuel as a partner in its Los Angeles office. “In the world of high stakes business litigation Quinn Emanuel has no peer," said Schwartz in a press release announcing the move. He comes from Irell & Manella, where he recently represented clients like Snapchat, CBS and WME. Managing partner John Quinn in the same statement said his firm has been courting Schwartz for more than a decade. "[T]here were always insurmountable conflicts that stood in the way," Quinn said. "I am happy they no longer exist. We are looking forward to having Bobby on our side.”