San Diego Comic-Con strikes back: Lawsuit filed against growing S.L. convention

By McKenzie Romero, Deseret News

Published: Fri, Aug. 8, 2014, 8:45 p.m. MDT

 San Diego Comic-Con International has sued Salt Lake Comic Con for using the moniker \

San Diego Comic-Con International has sued Salt Lake Comic Con for using the moniker "Comic Con" in its name and promotional materials.

(Denis Poroy, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — It is a period of civil war between comic and pop culture conventions.

San Diego Comic-Con International has sued Salt Lake Comic Con for using the moniker "Comic Con" in its name and promotional materials, filing their trademark complaint in Southern California's U.S. District Court on Thursday.

The 16-page complaint alleges federal trademark infringement and false designation of origin against Dan Farr Productions and Newspaper Agency Co. The suit comes after the nearly year-old Salt Lake Comic Con refused to bend before a cease and desist letter issued by the longstanding West Coast convention.

Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, the founders of Salt Lake Comic Con, said Friday they fully expected SDCC to respond with a lawsuit following their press conference earlier this week announcing they wouldn't shed the comic con name without a fight.

"If we lose, everybody loses," Brandenburg said. "We feel very strong that we're not doing anything that everyone else isn't doing."

Salt Lake Comic Con organizers have been steadfast in their very public assertion that SDCC has no right to the name, citing San Diego Comic-Con's failed efforts to sue Chicago Comiccon organizers over its name in 1996.

Salt Lake Comic Con is among dozens of conventions across the country and the world that brand their events as comic cons. San Diego Comic-Con holds the trademark on "Comic-Con," with a hyphen, but abandoned its 1995 bid for the rights to "Comic Con," with a space.

In a statement issued Friday, San Diego Comic-Con argued that Salt Lake Comic Con has been efforting "an aggressive marketing campaign directed at SDCC fans, attendees and exhibitors," including bringing an Audi R8 Spyder decked in Salt Lake Comic Con advertising to the California convention last month.

Salt Lake Comic Con's name and promotion has confused fans and exhibitors who believe the two conventions are affiliated in some way, SDCC says. They are not.

Brandenburg claims Salt Lake Comic Con will be backed by a host of unnamed promoters from around the country who also brand their events as comic cons.

"It's some of the biggest players in the business," he said.

Salt Lake Comic Con organizers believe they came into SDCC's sights with their near-instant success in the past year.

"A lot of comic cons start up every year, but we're the first to have the largest (first-time) comic con in North American history in little Salt Lake City," Brandenburg said. "We got on their radar and we grew out of nowhere to become the third-largest comic con in our first year, so that really got a lot of attention."

Salt Lake Comic Con attracted 72,000 guests to its inaugural event last fall and had 100,000 at its FanX convention in April, while San Diego Comic-Con regularly tops 130,000 attendees. Brandenburg predicted last month that the 2014 Salt Lake Comic Con, happening Sept. 4-6, could draw as many as 120,000 guests.

Salt Lake Comic Con organizers assured this week that the name battle will not impact this September's convention or hinder their ability to attract big-name celebrity guests.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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1. Al Thepal
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 9, 2014

I don't see how San Diego Comic-Con has a leg to stand on in this lawsuit. They have the trademark for "Comic-Con" but gave up the bid for "Comic Con". Salt Lake uses "Comic Con", which is not one of the trade marks held by the San Diego convention. I am no lawyer, but this seems like a pretty simple case to me.

2. My2Cents
Taylorsville, UT,
Aug. 9, 2014

Utah is the fraud capital of the US and the Utah chapter organization are basing shier conventions, advertising, and plan on the same pattern as the San Diego company. Utah is a copy cat thief trying to imply they are indeed sanctioned by and for the California convention.

I think Utah is the fraud and I would vote them criminals trying to steal ineluctable property from the original organization who trade marked their idea and name.

3. Foxtrot
Mountain View, CA,
Aug. 9, 2014

I love how this article is how the big bad San Diego Comic-Con is attacking the tiny little helpless Comic con. But my personal (not legal) is that SLC's version is utilizing a trademark by the San Diego version and gaining benefit from it. I am betting that a court finds it the same way. The fundamental difference between with and without a hyphen is irrelevant.

The Billboards advertising SLC's Comic Con has almost NO wordings on it except Comic con. I guess I feel it is like putting a label on a soda can called Coca Cola. No hyphen of course and saying it was different.

SLC is going to lose. You copied something well known, got great economic benefit.

4. 2in1year
Pleasant Grove, UT,
Aug. 9, 2014

Tell me why does this really matter in the long scheme of things? There are children being murdered in Iraq right now. Couldn't these people save their attorney fees and look for something useful to spend energy on?

5. sammyg
Springville, UT,
Aug. 9, 2014

I rather doubt I'd have snowball's chance in you know where if I came out with a soft drink named...


Hyphen, space or whatever, a reasonable person cannot distinguish the difference between the two comic conventions.

Frankly, I'm surprised that San Diego Comic-Con did not prevail against the first copy-cat.

The only winners will be the attorneys.