You’d be hard-pressed to find a brand that better encapsulates the sartorial manifestation of “Coachella vibes” than Urban Outfitters, and yet, just because the two are inextricably linked in the minds of people who like to mock festival-going millennials, does not, apparently, mean that Coachella is cool with the brand using its trademarked name to sell booty shorts and fringe-trimmed vests. That’s right, in possibly the most ironic legal battle of 2017 thus far, Coachella is suing Urban Outfitters.
According to LA Weekly, Goldenvoice, Coachella’s parent company, filed suit against Urban Outfitters and its perhaps even more festival-ready subsidiary Free People on March 14 in the U.S. Central District Court of California. The suit states that at least four items on Free People’s website use the word “Coachella” in them. Apparently, the company also has a “Bella Coachella” line sold via third-party vendors, which is also named in the suit.
I know what you’re thinking: But wait, didn’t H&M do a whole Coachella collection featuring tons of Insta-models that was shoved in our faces for weeks last year? Why, yes, they did, and they paid a hell of a lot of money to Coachella to do so! So when brands like Free People co-opt the word, it makes it a lot of harder for Goldenvoice to get other brands to cough up the cash to work with them. According to the suit, Coachella is also “extremely selective” with which brands they choose to do licensing agreements with, which sounds like something a bouncer at a nightclub might say, but okay.
Photo: Courtesy H&M
Apparently, Urban Outfitters ignored a cease and desist letter from Goldenvoice in April 2016, a claim which the Philadelphia-based company has neither confirmed nor denied. The suit demands that Urban Outfitters and its subsidiaries discontinue use of the word and fork over all profits made from its use. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the first time Coachella has sued over a riff on their ubiquitous name: In 2016, they forced a small, Los Angeles-based festival originally called “Hoodchella” to change its name to Noise in the Hood.
If all of this is seriously harshing your festival mellow (or perhaps you’re concerned that without the explicit labeling, you won’t know which crochet crop tops are Coachella appropriate and which are not), there’s always the argument that Urban Outfitters was simply referencing the Coachella Valley, a picturesque, 45-mile desert valley in Southern California, that, as far as I know, has no licensing agreements and is much less litigious than the festival named after it.