A federal judge has issued an injunction barring the organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con from using the term "Comic Con" in its name, dealing another blow to the event in its four-year-old trademark dispute with Comic-Con International.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Salt Lake producers Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg had petition the court to set aside a December 2017 jury verdict and order a new trial to determine who owns the name "Comic Con." Late Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Battaglia not only upheld the verdict, but issued the injunction and ordered Farr and Brandenburg to pay nearly $4 million in attorneys' fees and court costs. That's in addition to the $20,000 in corrective advertising already decreed by the 2017 verdict.
Already forced to rebrand itself as FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, the event is prevented from using the name "Comic Con," "Comic-Con" or any phonetic equivalent (say, "KomiKon"). Organizers are also prohibited to incorporate the trademark into any social media or advertising. However, Battaglia doesn't require Farr and Brandenburg to destroy any already-produced merchandise bearing the offending trademark, which likely comes as a relief, given that this year's installment of the convention is less than two weeks away. That said, they're barred advertising the event as "formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con."
The Hollywood Reporter notes that Comic-Con International organizers have sued other conventions that use the "Comic Con" brand, but most of those cases were placed on hold pending the outcome of this lawsuit.
Comic-Con International sued the Salt Lake convention in August 2014, accusing producers of the then-fledgling Utah event of capitalizing on its “creativity, ingenuity and hard work” by using the term “Comic Con." The lawsuit specifically cited a customized Audi sent by Utah organizers to San Diego during Comic-Con International 2014 to promote their event.
Salt Lake organizers insisted from the start that nobody owned a trademark to the term "Comic Con," without a hyphen, and waged an aggressive campaign to publicize the dispute, launching a website dedicated to the lawsuit, distributing the cease-and-desist letter to the media, and characterizing San Diego's claims as a threat to dozens of other conventions.
Farr and Brandenburg seem likely to appeal the decision, but for now at least they'll have to stick with the term "Comic Convention."