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San Diego Comic-Con wins legal fight over rights to its name

San Diego Comic-Con had sought as much as $12 million in damages; the jury awarded $20,000, concluding that the trademark infringement was not willful.
(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A jury on Friday sided with San Diego in its long-running legal battle over the rights to the “Comic-Con” name.

The verdict, handed down in San Diego federal court, found that the trademark belongs to Comic-Con International and that Salt Lake Comic Con and its founders had infringed on rights to the name.

Though it is likely that organizers of the rival Utah event will appeal, Friday’s verdict culminates a 3-year-old squabble that began when Salt Lake’s producers drove around downtown San Diego for two days during the July convention in a $200,000 Audi R8 Spyder wrapped with an image of “Salt Lake Comic Con.”

Comic-Con then sued the producers of the Utah pop culture gathering, alleging trademark infringement. The lawsuit came after the Salt Lake producers, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenberg, ignored letters to cease and desist using the name.

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In a statement Friday, organizers of the San Diego convention said they were grateful for the jury’s decision.

“San Diego Comic Convention has used the Comic-Con trademarks in connection with our comics and popular arts conventions for almost 50 years,” organizers said. “We have invested substantial time, talent and resources in our brand, resulting in worldwide recognition of the Comic-Con convention held annually in San Diego … 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.”

Representatives of Salt Lake Comic Con declined to comment on the verdict, but earlier had said they would appeal if they lost in court. Salt Lake had maintained that the Comic-Con name is generic and that there are dozens of events around the country that use some form of it.

San Diego Comic-Con had sought as much as $12 million in damages from Farr, Brandenburg and Salt Lake Comic Con; the jury awarded $20,000, concluding that the trademark infringement was not willful.

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lori.weisberg@sduniontribune.com

Weisberg writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune


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