San Diego Comic-Con Wins Trademark Victory

For many years, people knew that the San Diego Comic-Con was the end-all-be-all comic convention. There was nothing like it but it seems that Comic-Con International believes otherwise. This year, a legal battle over the term “comic con” has been called into question. Primarily, Comic-Con International (CCI) sued organizers of the Salt Lake City Comic Con over the term and claimed their event was designed to confuse fans.

Aside from the obvious, Salt Lake City is in Utah, while San Diego is held in, well, San Diego. No one with half a sense can confuse the two. Unfortunately, a jury in Federal District Court in San Diego saw otherwise. Consider our surprise. Unfortunately for CCI, they were seeking $12 million in damages but the jury only awarded them $20,000 for corrective advertising. The award was mostly since the jury found the infringement not to be intentional.

San Diego Comic-Con issued a statement:

“San Diego Comic Convention has used the Comic-Con trademarks in connection with our comics and popular arts conventions for almost 50 years.  We have invested substantial time, talent and resources in our brand resulting in world-wide recognition of the Comic-Con convention held annually in San Diego.   The jury today upheld all of San Diego Comic Convention’s trademarks as valid.  The jury also found that Dan Farr Productions, Daniel Farr and Bryan Brandenburg each infringed all of San Diego Comic Convention’s marks.  San Diego Comic Convention respects the decision of the jury.  From the beginning all that we asked of the defendants was to stop using our Comic-Con trademarks.  Today we obtained a verdict that will allow us to achieve this.  For that we are grateful.”

This was a case that was never going to end positively for Salt Lake City. Not to mention that the use of “confusing fans” is irrelevant and downright insulting. Farr and Brandenburg took their cause online to create the whole “David vs. Goliath” campaign. After gaining too much attention, the judge slapped a gag order on SLCC, which was overturned on 1st Amendment ground, and threatened jail time if they tried to “escalate this into a case involving the world.” Which it should, as the SDCC is a worldwide event.

The city of San Diego has been fighting for years in regards to keeping that event in San Diego. The judge and jury weren’t about to give it a loss, thus giving the organization a reason to leave the city. This gives, what claims to be a non-profit, CCI to look at all 180,000 large events like New York, Phoenix, and Denver to seek out licensing agreements with CCI or rename their shows. The SLCC organizers pledge to appeal the ruling. Taken out of the city of San Diego, their chances could improve.