Dispute over 'Comic Con' name is heading to court

Settlement talks have stalled between the organizers of Comic-Con International and Salt Lake Comic Con, which means the dispute over the "Comic Con" trademark may end up being resolved in federal court.

According to the Deseret News, a judge has given the two parties until the end of the month to schedule pretrial hearings. However, Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Bryan Brandenburg says a settlement is still possible.

Weeks after issuing a cease-and-desist letter in July 2014, Comic-Con International sued the Utah event, insisting organizers were attempting to “confuse and deceive” fans and exhibitors with their use of the term “Comic Con.” The lawsuit specifically cited a customized Audi sent to San Diego during Comic-Con International to promote the Salt Lake City convention.

Comic-Con International, which owns the trademarks for "Comic-Con," "Comic Con International" and "Anaheim Comic-Con," accuses Utah organizers of capitalizing on its "creativity, ingenuity and hard work" by using the term "Comic Con" to promote their event. The lawsuit claims Salt Lake Comic Con's actions are "causing irreparable harm" to Comic-Con International by "confusing and misleading consumers."

Calling the lawsuit "aggressive" and "frivolous," Salt Lake producers Dan Farr and Brandenburg argue Comic-Con International’s asserted trademarks are invalid, and that “comic-con” and “comic con” are generic terms applied to comic conventions. They, too, have been rather aggressive, defending themselves through a webpage and multiple press releases and media interviews. Farr and Brandenburg have framed Comic-Con International's action as not merely a threat to the Salt Lake event but to “all conventions that use a variation of Comic Con.”

In this latest article, Brandenburg states, "A lot of people have figured out that our case is the nexus of the 'comic con' trademark issue. It's San Diego versus everyone else."

Newspaper Agency Corp., a printing, advertising and delivery company owned by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, consented earlier this year to a court order preventing its from using the mark "Comic Con," "Comic-Con" or any of its variants in materials it produces for the Salt Lake event.

Comic-Con International will be held July 8-12 in San Diego. The third annual Salt Lake Comic Con is scheduled for Sept. 24-26.

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