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    Friday, August 12, 2022

    Under court order, Mystic Floatchella festival gets new name

    People gather to listen to the Yaad Crew Sound Band, performing on a floating stage, during Floatchella, an event for paddle-craft only, on the Mystic River Saturday, June 26, 2021, north of the drawbridge in downtown Mystic. The Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce has been forced to change the event's name after the Coachella music festival organizer filed a cease and desist order. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

    Bruce Flax, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, said he was surprised a “behemoth” — a subsidiary of a multinational corporation — had targeted his organization in a legal action.

    Coachella music festival organizer AEG Worldwide sent a cease and desist letter last week, giving the chamber a week to change the name of Mystic's annual Floatchella festival.

    Founded in 2020, the Mystic event invites the public for a “pop-up paddle-craft only rally on the Mystic River” every summer; this year’s event will be Aug. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. It has drawn around 300 kayaks and other vessels to the Mystic River since it began, not including the hundreds of people who watch and listen to the live music from land.

    “The Floatchella started in 2020 out of COVID, we were trying to have a safe event where the chamber could partner with downtown merchants because nobody was going to downtown at the time,” Flax said Saturday. “We came up with this event that’s outdoors and safe. It’s really fun, it’s a nice community event, so to have the behemoth kind of come after us, they’ve got to have better things to do than that.”

    While the Mystic event is small compared to the California arts and music festival held over two weekends in April that draws about 250,000 attendees annually, Flax noted that AEG regularly takes legal action against perceived threats to its trademark. According to celebrityaccess.com, a news site for entertainment professionals, “By failing to assert their rights against an alleged infringement, a trademark owner may face a weakening of the trademark’s legal protections in future cases through a loss of distinctiveness of the brand.”

    For example, Coachella organizers last year filed a trademark infringement lawsuit over a New Year’s Eve event named Coachella Day One 22 and produced by the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians in California, the newspaper Desert Sun reported.

    AEG could not be reached for comment Saturday.

    Flax and the chamber decided against fighting AEG’s cease and desist order. “We don’t have the money to fight them, and some friends of the chamber looked into it, and they told me AEG does this a lot, and they win a lot, so it was something that, we have such a great year coming up at the chamber, that we don’t really have time for this,” he said.

    The community event formerly known as Floatchella will now tentatively go by "Float Fest, Music on the Mystic River.” But Flax said the chamber is open to other ideas, so people with clever name recommendations — that preferably don’t invite legal action — can send them to info@mysticchamber.org.

    The move by AEG means merchandise bearing the word Floatchella can no longer be sold.

    “We did have some merch we were going to use this year, so we’ll have to write that off,” Flax said. “I’m not going to throw it away, I think we’ll probably give it away. There’s not that much stuff, it’s limited, which is good, we didn’t overbuy.”

    Flax explained his initial surprise when he learned of the cease and desist letter.

    “We’re a nonprofit, the Floatchella that we do is not mistaken for Coachella at all, and I kind of felt like it was a bunch of suits trying to figure out how to substantiate their pay,” he said.

    s.spinella@theday.com

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