In a ruling that will surely shake up the comic book convention industry, San Diego Comic Convention– more commonly called San Diego Comic-Con or SDCC– scored a victory in court against Salt Lake Comic Con and the men behind it, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg. U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Battaglia upheld the jury decision, which was made in December, that Farr and Brandenburg violated SDCC’s trademark by calling their event “Comic Con.” What this means is that now, no other conventions can use the terms “Comic Con,” “Comic-Con” or any phonetic equivalent (for example “KomiKon”).
Not only does the Salt Lake City con have to change its name–which they did, to FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention— but they must also play $4 million in attorneys’ fees and costs! That fine was imposed by the judge. In December, the jury did not find Farr and Brandenburg guilty of “willfulness” and only determined that they had to pay $20,000 for corrective advertising, which led to Farr and Brandenburg appealing the decision. But unfortunately, the judge upheld the prior ruling and upped the amount that they have to pay! As if this verdict weren’t harsh enough, FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention takes place in two weeks on September 6th-8th!
SDCC has filed suits against other “Comic Cons” across the country, but those cases were put on hold until this case was settled. Salt Lake was the guinea pig. Now that a legal precedent has been set, other judges and juries will have no choice but to also side with SDCC against these other conventions.
The defense’s main argument was that the organizers were not aware that they couldn’t use the term “Comic Con,” and pointed out that other gatherings also use it in their names (i.e. “everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?”), which is why the jury found that that had not willingly violated SDCC’s trademark. But the judge didn’t buy the repeated argument that the term “Comic Con” was too generic to belong to one entity. He did, however, allow for “Comic Convention.” He did not order Salt Lake to destroy existing advertising or merchandise that bears the old name.
SDCC had asked for $5 million, but got $4 million. Because of the large amount of money involved, there is a chance that Salt Lake could appeal. If not, then every other event in America that specifically uses “Comic Con” in its name will have to change it.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter