Bonkers Attorney's Fees Ruling Results In SDCC Getting $4 Million Out Of SLCC AFter $20k Jury Award
from the make-it-up-on-the-back-end dept
The last time we checked in on the trademark dispute between the San Diego Comic-Con and the Salt Lake Comic Con, we were in the wake of the jury’s decision that SLCC did in fact violate the trademark rights of the SDCC by daring to use the term “Comic Con.” We pointed out at the time that this is pretty plainly insane as a matter of trademark law, both because of the generic nature of festivals all over the country using some version of “comic con” in their names and the fact that the term itself is almost purely descriptive, being a shortened version of “comic convention”, which is what all of these shows are. While the verdict didn’t come down as predicted, the jury did manage to only award SDCC $20k in damages, finding that the infringement was not willful. The last checkpoint in the case was SDCC petitioning to get attorney’s fees out of SLCC and to prevent it from calling itself a “comic convention.”
Well, Judge Anthony Battaglia has ruled on both requests and, holy shit, he both granted most of the injunction requests and somehow managed to award $4 million dollars in attorney’s fees to SDCC in a case that resulted in a $20k judgement.
In yet another victory for Comic-Con in its long-running battle over the rights to its name, a San Diego judge has ordered organizers of Salt Lake City’s comic convention to pay nearly $4 million in attorney fees and costs.
The ruling Thursday by U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia also granted a permanent injunction barring the Salt Lake convention from using various versions of San Diego Comic-Con’s trademarked names, a decision that eventually could have a more wide-ranging impact on other conventions that continue to incorporate variations of the Comic-Con name.
Battaglia justified the high dollar award by claiming that the case was “exceptional” in nature, essentially arguing that SLCC’s defense was needlessly robust in ways that caused SDCC to have to spend more on its legal fees than it otherwise would have. That justification appears to ignore the reality of the situation, one in which SLCC for some reason had to defend its use of a shortened descriptor for the exact kind of show it was putting on. The injunction is somehow even more insane, with the court barring a comic convention from calling itself by any name that remotely approaches the term “comic-con” except for the term “comic convention”, from which that shortened term is directly derived. In other words, a comic convention can call itself a “comic convention” but not a “comic con.” That “vention” appears to be doing a great deal of heavy lifting in Battaglia’s mind.
SLCC, of course, immediately signaled its intent to appeal.
“We do not expect a $4 million attorney fee award predicated on a $20,000 jury verdict to survive appellate review,” they said. “We have instructed our attorneys to begin working on an appeal to the Ninth Circuit — while we prepare for what we expect to be our best event ever, starting September 6.”
The money is one thing, but the injunction is what will really have an impact for other conventions throughout the country. Suddenly, SDCC has a legal win that includes forcing another comic convention in another state to not be able to accurately call itself anything other than a “comic convention” specifically, with all other variations on that term being verboten. That sound you hear right now is hundreds of organizers of comics festivals falling out of their chairs.
Hopefully this all gets corrected on appeal.