It was just that kind of assholery that launched the great trademark debate between SDCC and SLCC FanX.
It’s official! I’ll say it again for those in the back.
Comic-Con is a San Diego trademark!
The trademark dispute that began in 2014 has now finally become fully enforceable. Federal court Judge, Anthony Battaglia ruled in favor of San Diego Comic-Con. Salt Lake City Comic-Con Fan X producers, Dan Farr Productions have been slapped with a $4 million in legal fees.
Attorney Peter Hahn, who represented Comic-Con, said: “The court’s rulings affirm without question that the Comic-Con trademarks are valid and incontestable and provide support for San Diego Comic Convention’s continuing efforts to protect its Comic-Con brand against infringement by others.”
He noted that while there is no other outstanding litigation in the federal district court, there is pending litigation in the U.S. Patent and Trademark office targeting the Salt Lake and Denver comic conventions.sandiegouniontribune.com
Woe be to those who dare use the moniker without permission.
Boston, Montreal, Quebec, and New York currently brand as Comic-Con and it is unclear now whether licensing agreements have been struck for these events following the verdict against Salt Lake City.
Dan Farr Productions has worked to rebrand the Salt Lake City event “FanX.” However, in advertisements, they note it was “formerly Comic Con.” Per Battaglia’s ruling, this is also not allowed. All references to Comic-Con must be removed, even ones using the words “formerly.” fox13now.com
Dan Farr Productions are also prohibited from selling or donating any merchandise and all marketing materials “bearing the specific word combinations Comic Con, Comic-Con, or any phonetic equivalents,” Battaglia ordered. sandiegouniontribune.com
The far-reaching implications of Federal court Judge, Anthony Battaglia’s ruling on August 24th, 2018 have yet to truly be realized. The ongoing case has sent shockwaves through the convention circuit.
Longstanding heavy hitter conventions like Phoenix Comic Con were one of the early adopters following the court battle. Square Egg Entertainment square-egg.com, which produces Pop Culture events in Phoenix, Minnesota, and attempted to reach out to Las Vegas this summer (now canceled) filed papers early this year, in an Arizona federal court to ask for a ruling declaring they are not violating San Diego Comic-Con’s trademark.
Their attempt to re-brand to get ahead of any legal troubles has irrefutably shown the power in a name. A staple in the Phoenix area, Comic-Con’s initial rebranding to Phoenix Comic Fest confused convention goers who attend their Fall show, Phoenix Fan Fest. Following the cancellation of that show, Square Egg Entertainment attempted a complete re-brand of all their conventions, dropping their two-a-year Phoenix venue to one and using the new moniker Fan Fusion.
The drastic change in the name so close to show date is a costly endeavor. Marketing materials, and promotional items all needed the rebranding. And this came mere months before the show. That no doubt added to the production company’s financial issues.
Square Egg Events have canceled two of their 2018 shows following massive layoffs of key staff members this month.
The sudden changes in the name for their flagship show also confused consumers and vendors. As a three year vendor at this event, I can tell you from my experience that there was a noticeable difference in crowd size as well as repeat vendors. Some of that can be attributed to the 2017 issues with a shooter caught on the first day of the convention and the sled-hammer response from the convention center regarding security.
The 2018 show carried a palpable level of uncertainty on the show floor, and many vendors had lackluster commitments of continuing in 2019.
Looking at what happened in Phoenix, leaves some to speculate whether or not it would have been better for them to reach out to SDCC and come to an agreement on licensing. It might have saved the company money in the long run.
Other longstanding conventions have already opted to work within the trademark. Rose City Comic Con jumped in ahead of the ruling to work with SDCC, announcing their 2018 show in September will be named Comic Con with SDCC’s blessing.
“Rose City Comic Con, Portland, Oregon’s largest comics, and pop-culture convention is proud to announce its association with San Diego Comic Convention for its three-day event taking place September 7-9, 2018 at the Oregon Convention Center. Rose City Comic Con received the license at no additional cost to the show, and acknowledges the trademark owned by San Diego Comic Convention and is excited to affiliate itself with the prestigious event.”
Naming confusion can mean a loss of consumer trust and loss of revenue. Pop-Culture conventions that already use the branding of Comic-Con might find it more in line with their interest to work with SDCC going forward and obtain licensing to retain the name consumers know them by.
Whatever path conventions take with their naming going forward, one thing is clear, SDCC is the original and if you want to be known as a Comic Convention, you’d better ask for permission.