A California federal judge has issued an injunction against Salt Lake Comic Con producers, stating that they were infringing on trademarks held by San Diego Comic-Con. The case, while certainly affecting the Salt Lake convention, could have ramifications for any other convention bearing the "comic con" label.
This trial can be traced back to another that took place last winter. The plaintiff, San Diego Comic-Con, took on Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, the producers of Salt Lake Comic Con, saying the Salt Lake convention was infringing on SDCC's trademarks. At that time, the jury did not find willfulness, but did penalize Salt Lake at $20,000 in corrective advertising. Unhappy with this verdict, Salt Lake asked U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Battaglia to order a retrial, which is where this recent case comes into play. Interestingly enough, San Diego also wanted a retrial, believing the jury's original finding of non-willfulness to be inadequate.
Calling it "one of the biggest trademark cases in the entertainment industry in years," THR detailed the outcome of the court's latest decision. With this case, Battaglia not only upheld the original verdict, but also issued an injunction and ordered Salt Lake to pay a sum of $4 million in attorneys' fees. Based on the injunction Battaglia issued, the Salt Lake convention cannot use the terms "Comic Con," "Comic-Con," or any phonetic equivalents in the branding of their convention. This includes social media sites that operate under the trademark terms. Salt Lake is not prevented, however, from using the phrase "comic convention" in any of these ways.
With Salt Lake's convention set to take place in just a week's time, the producers have already rebranded it under the name FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention. The case is certainly a major win for SDCC at Salt Lake's expense, but while Salt Lake plans to appeal the decision, San Diego may continue to seek similar injunctions on the vast number of other conventions bearing the "comic con" label.
The case is certainly groundbreaking. "Comic Con" is a phrase that - while commonly applied to many conventions - truly does stem from San Diego's iconic event. With many of the year's biggest movie and TV reveals and pressure for studios to release their A-game trailers at SDCC, it is an event that even fans who stay home can look forward to each year. It makes sense, then, that the convention producers would seek to prevent other conventions from cashing in on the branding that has brought them to such a high status. If this case is any indication of the future, San Diego Comic-Con will likely be the only "comic con" fans will be able to attend.