San Diego Comic-Con Fighting With Salt Lake City Comic Con Over Trademark

from the comical dept

Comic-cons are awesome. They occur all over the country and they’re literally the best place to people watch on the entire planet. You should know this. What you probably don’t know is that “Comic-Con” is a trademarked term used by the famous San Diego convention, arguably the most successful of its kind. You likely don’t know this because, like any other sane comics enthusiast, comic-con has become a generic term meaning a comics convention. It isn’t associated with any particular company or brand any longer. It’s generic.

Which is what might make it surprising to learn that the San Diego Comic-Con is suddenly going after the Salt Lake City Comic Con over trademark infringement. The cease and desist letter the San Diego convention sent out makes hysterical claims.

“Attendees, exhibitors and fans seeing use of ‘Comic Con’ in connection with your convention will incorrectly assume that your convention is in some way affiliated with SDCC and its Comic-Con convention,” the letter from attorneys for San Diego Comic-Con wrote in the letter sent Friday. “In fact, we are aware of multiple instances where persons have incorrectly believed that the Salt Lake Comic Con convention was an SDCC event.”

Uh huh. I can remember attending a comics convention in Chicago recently and thinking, “Holy shit, I can’t believe all these guys from San Diego came out here to run this convention.” Because they didn’t, obviously, and it takes a special kind of silly to think that anyone using the shortened version of the term “comics convention” must be the same folks from California. The term has become diluted on its own, certainly, but also due to the San Diego convention’s inaction when it comes to all the other comic-cons out there. The Salt Lake City convention included this in its response.

The 13-page response filed Monday in Southern California’s U.S. District Court denied the bulk of San Diego’s claims, including that its name violates the trademark the West Coast convention holds on the title “comic-con,” with a hyphen. The non-exhaustive list of conventions includes Baltimore Comic Con in Maryland, Pittsburg Comicon in Pennsylvania, and Rose City Comic Con in Oregon, all of which remain uncontested by the flagship convention in San Diego.

“(San Diego Comic-Con) has allowed competitors and consumers to use the words ‘comic con’ or ‘comic-con’ as the generic name for comic conventions,” the filing states. “The general public understands the words ‘comic con’ or ‘comic-con’ to refer generally to a comic convention and does not associate these words with any particular source of such conventions.”

Rendering this all really silly is that the San Diego convention is both insanely successful and is also certainly not threatened by other conventions put on in other cities. On the off chance that they can find someone who thinks that all “comic-cons” are run by the SDCC, so what? They’ve already failed to protect their mark, which was eventually going to become generic, and I’m pretty sure folks in Salt Lake City going to the convention aren’t taking anything away from the SDCC. So what’s the point of all this again?

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Comments on “San Diego Comic-Con Fighting With Salt Lake City Comic Con Over Trademark”

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30 Comments
Andrew Norton says:

Re: What Con?

Hardly. Dragon Con is the Cosplaying Con (which is why the EFF had their ‘Project Secret Identity‘ going at Dragon Con. When you can look into the lobby of a hotel at SDCC at 4am, and see nothing but costumes from 40 floors up, or have an hour long parade, then they can be the “CosplayCon”.
(Disclaimer, I’m the assistant director of the Electronic Frontiers Forums track at DCon)

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: What Con?

When you can look into the lobby of a hotel at SDCC at 4am, and see nothing but costumes from 40 floors up, or have an hour long parade, then they can be the “CosplayCon”.

SDCC doesn’t take place at a Hotel. SDCC takes place at the San Diego Convention Center (and has since 1979,) and almost all of the hotels in San Diego are full of Comic-Con attendees during Comic-Con weekend (it is so difficult to find hotel beds during that weekend that there has been concern over the years of SDCC moving to Los Angeles, which likely has more beds available than San Diego.)

Won’t argue with cosplay…though SDCC has had a masquerade since 1974, though in recent years (since the turn of the century,) SDCC has moved more and more away from comics to Hollywood entertainment. Before that, most cosplay was comic-book based and there were far fewer of them. I do remember seeing some cosplay back in the early 90’s when I started going, but most of it was comic-book and video game cosplay. Haven’t gone since 2008, tickets got too hard to procure.

CelebrityCon would be a better name, however, since SDCC has pretty much become the place where Hollywood goes to show off their latest stuff (probably because of the proximity to Hollywood.)

Andrew Norton says:

Re: Re: Re: What Con?

SDCC doesn’t take place at a Hotel. SDCC takes place at the San Diego Convention Center (and has since 1979,) and almost all of the hotels in San Diego are full of Comic-Con attendees during Comic-Con weekend (it is so difficult to find hotel beds during that weekend that there has been concern over the years of SDCC moving to Los Angeles, which likely has more beds available than San Diego.)

I know, was my attempt to be humorous.
This was the view from the 37th floor of the Marriott at 00:05am on the Friday of this years DCon – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ktetch/15075410598/. I mean, its a regular work day, its 10 hours until the first panel and the opening ceremony, and it’ll be like that (or worse) until ~ 9am on the Monday morning.
And the hotel problem is the same – this Marriott will go on sale in about a week. It’ll sell out in 15 minutes or less. All the other host hotels have already sold out (some before this years con even finished). Lot of people were staying outside the city of Atlanta, and uber-ing in, or taking MARTA if they were lucky.
Then you have the parade, where it was like the Macy’s thanksgiving day parade https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRboo6SuKT8

It’s a constant battle with the Fire Marshall’s office over capacity and safety. Lot of people want it to move from the 5 hotels (and America’s Mart) to the World Congress Center, but then it’ll lose it’s DragonCon-ness. having to take a cab to the center in Atlanta summer heat is too much for many, and there’s not many hotels near the GWCC. We’ll see how next years changes pan out though, as I aim to put a bigger, better Electronic Frontier Forums track program together.

We actually invited Mike to come this year, but he had reasons he couldn’t make it. Maybe next year…

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What Con?

having to take a cab to the center in Atlanta summer heat is too much for many

I’d love to go to DragonCon, if it wasn’t in Hot-Lanta.

Been there, done that. Like having a hacker conference in Las Vegas during the middle of the summer…not the smartest group of people (but then again, they are both extremely popular so someone must have done something right.)

Johanna (user link) says:

Not that simple

What you may not realize, because the Salt Lake folks making a big deal out of trying to get media coverage on their side don’t mention it, is that this seems to have happened because Salt Lake was advertising at the San Diego con and directly causing customer confusion. The Salt Lake logos downplay the location and make the Comic Con much larger, and when they took their logo-wrapped car down to San Diego, the San Diego con got calls about “their” advertising car.

I agree, the term has likely become generic by this point, but this particular case arose because Salt Lake appears to be trying to trade on the San Diego Con’s rep — and Salt Lake is also making some very suspicious claims of inflated admission, but that’s another story.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Not that simple

San Diego Comic-Con’s 2014 event was underway when it sent a cease and desist order to Salt Lake Comic Con on July 26, ordering the fledgling event to drop “Comic Con” from its name, website and all promotional materials.

Hmmm… That’s what the paper say. I haven’t read the original filling though so there is that. But while it may be a multi-pronged attack against Salt Lake and parts of this attack are in the right this specific bit is not.

Amanda (profile) says:

Re: Not that simple

actually the car had nothing to do with the cease and desist letter. The car wasn’t even in california when the cnd letter came. they started attacking salt lake right after salt lakes FanExperienxe convention because on their second convention within less then a year they had numbers to challenge sdcc attendance numbers.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

This doesn’t surprise me that Techdirt got this lawsuit wrong. I run one of the most frequented anime and manga communities online and I can assure the reader at techdirt that while the article is technically correct, Timothy Geigner got his article wrong.

The lawsuit isn’t contesting “comic con”, as Timothy noted above, the term “comic con” is generic and you cannot copyright generic terms. The lawsuit is over the way Salt Lake City stylized the fonts for “comic con”, making it seem like the Salt Lake City convention was associated with San Diego Comic Con.

(see linked picture)

The sports car is what set off the whole lawsuit process with San Diego demanding that the car be delivered to them, even though it was Salt Lake City Comic Con who paid for the advertising on the car.

It’s seriously doubtful that anyone can hold a trademark on the words “comic con” or in any variation but this is simply SDCC suing Salt Lake over the way they have displayed the logo for their comic con.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

I seriously doubt that SDCC has a copyright or trademark over “Comic-Con” or any variation on that theme. More than likely, they only have the rights to “San Diego Comic Con”. SDCC is just trying to use its heavyweight status to scare Salt Lake Comic Con into backing off by wrongfully claiming that it has the rights to “comic con” which is a generic term. It’s similar to SciFi Channel’s and their attempt to copyright “SciFi”, which their claim was denied because scifi is a generic term.

Like I said, this whole thing blew itself out of proportion only because of that sport’s car that appeared at a convention hotel, which SDCC demanded that the automobile be delivered to them instead, even though they had no claim to the car, and that it was paid for by Salt Lake Comic Con.

I’ve been following this story ever since it first developed earlier this summer and I’m shocked that techdirt is only just now reporting on it.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Yup

What about generic terms we use every day? Kleenex, Band Aid, Coke…

Using the word “Coke” when you are referring to any carbonated beverage isn’t that common. It’s mainly used only in the southern states. Most everyone else uses “soda”, “pop” or “soda pop”.

http://www.tableausoftware.com/blog/do-you-say-coke-soda-or-pop-map-visualization-shows-your-likely-answer

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