It doesn’t take a master chess player to recognize the wisdom and strategy behind Salt Lake Comic Con’s latest move in the ongoing legal battle with San Diego Comic-Con International regarding the use of the term “comic con.”
Though the date of issue was July 14, Salt Lake Comic Con co-founders Bryan Brandenburg and Dan Farr learned Wednesday that the United States Patent and Trademark Office had officially granted Dan Farr Productions the legal trademark for the name “Salt Lake Comic Con.”
“This is a big win,” Brandenburg said, following the public announcement of the development. “I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we’ve won the battle, but we didn’t feel like (San Diego Comic-Con) had a case before, and this is certainly a crippling factor.”
As a recap, almost exactly a year ago, representatives of San Diego Comic-Con sent Salt Lake Comic Con founders a cease and desist letter, insisting that the convention immediately discontinue use of the term “Comic Con” and any phrase variations, including “Comiccon” and “Comic-Con.” A failure to comply to the demands would result in legal action.
Certain of their legal right to the term, as well as to set precedence and clear the way for other, smaller events utilizing the phrase “Comic Con,” Salt Lake Comic Con representatives allowed the disagreement to move forward to court.
“It would have been easier to take the softer way out with this dispute,” Brandenburg said of how the situation developed. “But we realized that if we (did) that, it may be good for us, but it would not fare well for all of our other friends and promoters doing these kinds of comic cons, and for that reason we’ve got to kind of lead the fight here.”
San Diego Comic-Con officially filed a lawsuit against Salt Lake Comic Con on Aug. 8, 2014, and the war of words has slowly been making its way through the courts since then.
According to Brandenburg, the term “Comic Con” is generic, and comparable to terms such as “gun show,” “auto show” or “car show.” Only when a city name is affixed to the term would it be grounds for a trademark, and that’s a fact the Trademark Office agreed with.
“The Trademark Office came back to us a couple months ago saying that the name ‘Comic Con’ is nondescript and generic,” Brandenburg said. “Both ‘Salt Lake’ and ‘Comic Con’ are nondescript and can’t be trademarked. Our attorneys went back to them and said that ‘Salt Lake Comic Con’ as a phrase is unique and we can get a trademark for that.”
And so they did. The trademark specifies that no claim is made to the term “Comic Con” in general, but that a trademark on “Salt Lake Comic Con” could be used for “Education and entertainment services, namely, organizing, producing and conducting conventions in the fields of gaming, comics, television, movies, technology, science fiction, fantasy, and popular culture for entertainment purposes.”
Though court dates for the case with San Diego Comic-Con are still valid and will proceed as planned, Salt Lake Comic Con’s founders are hopeful this development will eventually put an end to the legal struggle.
“It will allow us to quit spending so much money on legal fees and allow us to spend more money on great guests like Captain America,” Brandenburg said, referencing the convention’s recent announcement of Chris Evans as a guest for the September event.
It also will give hope to other conventions that received letters from San Diego Comic-Con and who are working on securing their own patents. Ultimately, though, Brandenburg said the trademark update is just another step toward a great fall convention, and that the pending legal matters won’t be impacting what happens during September’s show.
“What the fans need to know is that we have positive people working on this,” he said. “We have the resources to defend ourselves and this is going to be our best show ever. … Salt Lake has really established a stellar reputation and that’s 100 percent because of the fans. They’ve supported us and supported the event and that’s why people like Chris Evans want to come to our event.”