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World's Least Cool Feud: Coachella Sues Urban Outfitters to Protect Its Brand

The annual music festival known for its controversial headwear alleges the clothing company is tarnishing its "unquestionable fame."
Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

This week in celebrity feuds, Coachella is suing the retailer Urban Outfitters and its subsidiary, Free People, for using the festival's trademarked name to sell their hippie-inflected clothing lines. In a complaint filed in a US District Court, Coachella alleges that the retailers are "trading on the goodwill and fame" of the festival.

After noting extensively how great their music show in the desert is—"An Internet search using the Google search engine for the term 'Coachella music festival' provided over 1 million hits," the lawsuit boasts—Coachella's lawsuit takes issue with Urban Outfitter's marketing tactics. Free People, according to the complaint, sells a lacy shirt called "Coachella Valley Tunic," among other items using the Coachella name.


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"Coachella is about more than just music," the lawsuit goes on to allege. In the past few years, the festival has also started licensing its name to clothing and jewelry retailers like H&M and Pandora. Urban Outfitter's marketing, the complaint says, is likely to cause "dilution by blurring or dilution by tarnishment" of the Coachella brand. This would be a shame, since "the Coachella Marks have for many years enjoyed unquestionable fame as a result of the favorable general public acceptance and recognition," the lawsuit states.

Screenshot via court documents. Petty markup is the suit's own.

Other than the risk to the quality of their brand, Coachella doesn't like that Urban Outfitters and Free People are trying to sell to the same people they're trying to sell to. "Defendants' apparel is directly targeting the same consumers who purchase Plaintiffs' goods and/or its licensees and sponsors' goods," the suit states. It also accuses the company of wrongly using the word "Coachella" in its website metatags to filter search results for festival wear.

Strangely, the music festival's proprietors seems to think people would prefer to buy "official" Coachella clothes, and are potentially being tricked into buying unauthorized versions of shitty, faux-vintage garments. "Defendants' use in commerce of the Coachella Marks is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or to deceive," the lawsuit continues.

Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Since the suit was filed, Free People took down the listings for the alleged infringing items; perhaps they'll now stick with the euphemistic "festival fashion" like everyone else. But whether or not a retailer explicitly markets a fringe vest with the word "Coachella," we'll likely never be able to associate it with anything else. If the Coachella brand stands for anything, it's bad taste.