UPDATE: San Diego Comic-Con International has filed suit against Salt Lake Comic Con.
Over the weekend, while much of the media was focused on San Diego Comic-Con, another Comic Con was getting a little focus from SDCC — and it wasn’t pretty.
Salt Lake Comic Con reported on their web site, that they had received a “Cease & Desist” letter from San Diego Comic-Con, prompted by SLCC’s use of a “skinned” vehicle parked outside the San Diego Convention Center. The car is clearly marked with “Salt Lake Comic Con” with the dates on the side panel — September 4-6, 2014. San Diego makes the claim in its C&D letter, that many attendees were confused into thinking that Salt Lake Comic Con was affiliated with San Diego Comic-Con, which is not the case.
According to the letter sent from SDCC’s lawyers, the use of the words “Comic Con” in connection with SLCC “is likely to cause confusion in the minds of attendees, exhibitors and fans as to the source, sponsorship or endorsement of your Salt Lake Comic Con convention. In fact, we are aware of multiple instances where persons have incorrectly believed that the Salt Lake Comic Con convention was an SDCC event.” The letter goes on to say that some believed the two events to be tied together in some way. It might be an easy assumption to make for first-time convention visitors, but it’s difficult to believe that most genre fans would make this mistake.
However, it’s the core of the letter that has this incident getting national media attention, as SDCC goes further to claim that “Comic Con” belongs to them.
In view of the foregoing, we hereby demand on behalf of SDCC that Dan Farr Productions, LLC and Newspaper Agency Company, LLC immediately cease and desist from further infringing the Comic-Con marks. Complying with this demand requires that Dan Farr Productions, LLC and Newspaper Agency Company, LLC immediately discontinue all use of “Comic Con,” “Comic-Con” “Comicon” or any other confusingly similar variation of the Comic Con marks in connection with convention services. You will also need to immediately remove all instances and uses of “Comic Con” (and confusingly similar variations) from your websites, on-line ads and any other promotional materials and sites for your convention. You will also need to transfer to SDCC all domain names owned by you that include “comiccon” or variations thereof.
Note that last line. SDCC is not only making the claim that the generic words “Comic Con” belong to Comic-Con International (which they don’t, according to this), but they are also demanding that Salt Lake Comic Con give up the ownership of web site URLs that have the words in them.
In a press release answering the C&D, Salt Lake Comic Con founder and producer has this to say: “This cease and desist order is baseless and has been attempted before by this organization and has failed. Our primary concern is our fans and making sure we provide them with an event that allows them to meet, great and get up close and personal with their favorite celebrities and pop culture icons…We’re puzzled why Salt Lake Comic Con was apparently singled out amongst the hundreds of Comic Cons around the country and the world. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves from this frivolous action.”
“San Diego Comic-Con International is threatening not only us, but all the other Comic Cons by trying to prohibit them from using the term for their events,” said Bryan Brandenburg, Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer. “San Diego Comic-Con attempted to trademark ‘Comic Con’ in 1995 and the application failed. Furthermore, precedence for the mark ‘Comic Con’ was set when Denver Comic Con received a trademark for their convention on November 26, 2013. Nobody owns the words ‘Comic Con’ (short for comic convention) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office has already ruled on this.”
In addition, Salt Lake Comic Con has begun listing other conventions that use “Comic Con” in their names, and they question SDCC’s specific targeting of Salt Lake. It’s possible this instance was touched off by the prominent placement of the SLCC car outside of SDCC, but this is not the only time conventions promote at other events. Most conventions will have flyers and promotional materials for other conventions throughout the space, whether on the “freebie table” or through a vendor space.
Salt Lake’s first year garnered an attendance of 72,000 people, which is unusual for first years. Many have cited the SLCC success as a threat to SDCC. However, given that Salt Lake City is over seven hundred miles away, and several months distant from San Diego’s event, is there any substance to that theory?