The Coachella Music and Arts Festival is back in court again, but this time it is the little guy.
On Friday, Coachella sued Phillips 66, a Fortune 500 energy company that runs 76 gas stations, over a promotional contest that gives away wristbands to next year’s music festival.
The lawsuit accuses Phillips 66 of violating the festival’s trademark by using the Coachella name while advertising its “76 Coachella Countdown” promotion. These violations happened in online advertisements, tweets and even skywriting directly over the festival grounds, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit also alleges that Phillips 66 plans to buy VIP wristbands for the 2017 festival, then give those wristbands to whomever wins the contest. However, Coachella rules forbid the transfer of wristbands, and anyone who is caught with a wristband they didn’t buy themselves can be denied entry to the festival.
“By using a false and unauthorized endorsement to offer to transfer Coachella passes,” the lawsuit states, “defendants are causing members of the public to be confused or deceived into believing that plaintiffs have authorized defendants to engage in such conduct when, in fact, they have not.”
This is the fourth company that Coachella has sued for trademark infringement this year, but the first time that Coachella has targeted someone bigger than itself. The prior suits were filed against Hoodchella, a small Los Angeles music festival, and two companies that were accused of scalping exclusive wristbands meant for musicians and their guests. Coachella generally turns a blind eye to the scalping of general admission wristbands, but said the re-sale of these exclusive wristbands created a security risk.
The lawsuit against Hoodchella was dropped when the concert changed its name. The suits against the scalpers are pending.
Coachella, an annual festival that draws hundreds of thousands of music fans to the Indio polo grounds, ended over the weekend. This year’s headliners were LCD Soundsystem, Guns N’ Roses and Calvin Harris. Tickets cost hundreds of dollars and sell out in minutes.
David Steele, an attorney for Coachella, declined to comment. Phillips 66 also declined to comment, saying it had a policy not to discuss ongoing litigation.