San Diego

There Can Be Only One San Diego Comic-Con, Judge Rules

Judge Issues Injunction Against Utah Comic Con in Trademark Case

A federal judge has awarded San Diego Comic-Con $3.9 million in legal fees in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed in 2014 against Salt Lake City’s comic convention.

Also, the Utah comic book convention has 30 days to stop using the Comic Con name and brand, according to SDCC’s attorney Peter Hahn.

The event is now referring to itself on its website as FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention (formerly Salt Lake Comic Con.)  

Federal court Judge Anthony Battaglia's ruling Thursday follows a December 2017 jury verdict that the Salt Lake City convention violated San Diego Comic-Con’s trademarked names.

The December 2017 ruling may have far-reaching legal implications for comic book convention spin-offs wanting to recreate the magic of the original SDCC, which began with 100 self-described comic book geeks in a basement and grew to “one of the best-attended pop culture events in the world,” according to Forbes.

“We are very pleased with the Court’s orders – justice has finally been served,” said SDCC attorney Peter Hahn, with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. “Ultimately, San Diego Comic Convention achieved what it has sought all along – an end to Defendants’ pervasive infringement of the Comic-Con trademarks, and an end to their brazen efforts to trade off the reputation and goodwill associated with the Comic-Con brand.”

The lawsuit was brought against Dan Farr, a 3D digital software developer, and founder of the Salt Lake City Comic Con. It also names Bryan Brandenburg. Neither Farr nor Brandenburg could be reached for comment.

The suit alleges Farr copied the internationally famous SDCC logo, and name, used since 1970 by event organizers. SDCC’s attorney, Hahn, told NBC 7 Farr’s efforts to deceive the public went much further than just his convention’s name.

Hahn said Farr would come to San Diego, take pictures at Comic-Con and then post them to his website, as if to make it look like the events were connected.

“It honestly confused people into thinking they were part of the San Diego organization,” Hahn said.

In his ruling the judge wrote the San Diego organizers were entitled to legal fees because of the “exceptional” nature of the case.

“At every opportunity, (the defendants) repeated, re-argued, and recycled arguments already briefed by both parties and analyzed and ruled on by the court,” Judge Battaglia wrote. “This type of wasteful litigation tactic forced SDCC to expend extra, unnecessary legal fees and drove this court to squander already limited judicial resources.”

Hahn said the ruling will help SDCC protect its brand against similar infringement efforts by comic conventions in other cities.

David Glanzer, SDCC’s chief communications and strategy officer, said wherever possible the convention organizers prefer to settle disputes outside of a courtroom, but in this case it was impossible.

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

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