As you may have heard, a federal jury has awarded $20,000 in damages to San Diego Comic-Con in its trademark infringement dispute with Salt Lake Comic Con over the use of the term “comic con” in their names.
The verdict found that San Diego Comic-Con’s trademark is valid, and that Salt Lake Comic Con used it without permission. While San Diego Comic-Con initially sought $12 million in damages from organizers Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, they were only awarded $20,000 because, according to the ruling, the violation was not a “willful infringement” of SDCC’s trademark.
In a statement, San Diego Comic-Con said:
San Diego Comic Convention has used the Comic-Con trademarks in connection with our comics and popular arts conventions for almost 50 years. We have invested substantial time, talent and resources in our brand resulting in world-wide recognition of the Comic-Con convention held annually in San Diego. The jury today upheld San Diego Comic Convention’s trademarks as valid. The jury also found that Dan Farr Productions, Daniel Farr and Bryan Brandenburg each infringed San Diego Comic Convention’s marks. San Diego Comic Convention respects the decision of the jury. From the beginning all that we asked of the defendants was to stop using our Comic-Con trademarks. Today we obtained a verdict that will allow us to achieve this. For that we are grateful.
And on the flip side, Bryan Brandenburg posted the following on Facebook:
I woke up this morning facing a bright new future. The weight of the world has been lifted from Dan’s and my shoulders. We have successfully cleared our names and lifted the cloud of accusation that has been surrounding us for 3 1/2 years.
– We were accused of stealing and hijacking. The jury said we were NOT GUILTY of this. There was no willful infringement.
– We were accused of trying to associate our convention with the San Diego convention. The jury said that we were NOT GUILTY of this. They found no evidence of false designation of origin.
– We were accused of causing $12,000,000 damage to the SDCC brand. They said we were the very worst offender. The jury found no evidence of damage. They awarded San Diego $20,000 in damages, less than .2% of what they asked for sending a clear message that we didn’t hurt the San Diego brand and this is what will be paid out for the worst of the 140 comic cons.
– We were accused of infringing San Diego’s trademarks, along with 140 other “infringers”…other conventions that call themselves “comic con”. The jury said that we were guilty. San Diego said, “They’re all infringers, that we and 140 other conventions that use the term comic con were guilty.” So for now they have 3 valid trademarks. We think that they will still lose “comic-con”. We’re proud to be lumped in with some of the finest comic cons in the country.
Dan and I have no regrets about standing up for ourselves when we took action after receiving a cease and desist. In hindsight, we would not have taken the car down to San Diego. For that we apologize to San Diego Comic Con. They are a great event with great people.
This process helped me realize once again that we truly have the best fans in the world. You have been there for us and it was comforting to have so many pulling for us. We are glad that we were able to clear our names at a minimum. But there are a lot of things moving in the background which I cannot talk about. All good things.
He goes on to say:
We’re not sure exactly how things will play out. We may change our name. We may appeal. But one thing is for certain. 2018 will be our best year yet.
Salt Lake Comic Con still has a few cards up their sleeves. One of which is that they own the trademark on “FanX.” Brandenburg indicated that dropping “comic con” from the name, and becoming FanX wouldn’t be such a bad thing as there is a lot of positive brand awareness associated with that name. That being said, what this ruling ultimately means for the future of Salt Lake Comic Con, and the 140 other conventions with “comic con” in their name remains to be seen; however, something tells me that we haven’t seen the last of this type of lawsuit.