The Other Side: Phoenix Comicon Proactively Changes Names To Avoid San Diego Comic-Con Bully

from the appeasement-strategy dept

We had just been talking about the brewing trademark civil war set to break out across the country in the comics conventions space, with Yakima Central City Comic Con choosing not to react to the fiasco of a court case that saw San Diego Comic-Con enforce its trademark against a convention in Salt Lake City. Their decision, publicly revealed relatively soon after the court case outcome, indicated that some comic conventions take the view that SDCC's trademark is invalid for any number of reasons and that they can simply wait for the Salt Lake Comic Con's attempt to invalidate SDCC's trademark to shake out. These would be conventions deciding not to freak out just because one bully got one win.

But of course that stance could never be universal among all comic conventions in America and now we have our first convention deciding to show everyone what a chilling effect trademark bullying can have. The previously-named Phoenix Comicon has announced it will be rebranding as the Phoenix Comic Fest, with the company behind the convention, Square Egg Entertainment, providing only the thinnest of veils over its reasoning for the change.

“In recent months, the use of the word Comic-Con, and its many forms, has become litigious. We would prefer to focus on creating the best events and experiences for our attendees. Therefore, effective immediately, our event held annually in Phoenix in the spring will be rebranded as Phoenix Comic Fest.”

Square Egg also said that they will change the event’s website and other assets over the next week to reflect the new name. As of this writing, they’ve already updated the event's Facebookand Twitter accounts and have posted an updated logo for the event.

This, necessarily, must be considered a win for the San Diego Comic-Con folks. The whole point of the lawsuit that kicked all of this off was that they didn't want anyone else using their plainly generic and descriptive, yet now enforced, trademark. Still, the obvious question is exactly what sort of win is this? If anything, this move by the now-named Phoenix Comic Fest seems to indicate that even the fearful out there will simply rebrand. With no actual customer or public confusion to seriously be worried about, it seems to me that the only real incentive in all of this for SDCC is licensing and partnership agreements. A simple name change does away with those potential rewards.

Still, it's worth keeping in mind that there are over 100 conventions in America alone using some flavor of the "comic con" mark. What percentage will undertake the very real costs in rebranding and what percentage will stand their ground carries some importance, but so long as the latter number is sizable SDCC will have quite a bit in the way of court costs and lawyers' fees to pay for the pleasure of eking out five-figure jury awards.

Filed Under: bullying, comic con, phoenix, trademark
Companies: san diego comic-con

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  1. identicon
    ovisis, 9 Jan 2018 @ 8:10pm

    I tend to portmanteau words on a regular basis, and Comic-Con I generally say as "Commie-Con". Without really thinking, I did it to this upcoming Comic Fest, giving me, urrr, "commie-fest".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Christenson, 9 Jan 2018 @ 8:51pm

    Re: Silly Portmanteaus...

    If you are going to think about what the portmanteau brings up that it wasn't intended to, think about the fact that a comic-con is a con, as in con-job or con man, and this whole TM shebang is almost comical!

    Be interesting to see if San Diego Comic Fest springs up next year and causes havoc by competing with the comic con, especially if the consumers are pissed...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 9 Jan 2018 @ 9:17pm

    Proof that SDCC's win was empty

    I'm sure the Phoenix Comic Fest will survive just fine with its new name, accentuating the fact that "Comic-Con" isn't actually worth fighting or paying for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 9 Jan 2018 @ 9:34pm

    Reborn from is falling?

    Phoenix Comicon rebrands itself Chicken Comic Fest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    PaulT (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 1:03am

    So, they change their name from the common abbreviation for convention to the common abbreviation for festival. An abbreviation that's in use by at least 2 film festivals I attend every year, although without the "comic" prefix in those cases.

    I wonder, therefore, if this will be the end of it, or if some existing festival will get the bright idea to follow in these footsteps and pretend that another common phrase belongs exclusively to them.

    By the way, I just did a quick Google search to see if anyone was using the "comic fest" before now, and was amused to see this near the top:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 3:22am

    It would be a pity if SDCC's bullying legal tactics turned off the fans. Imagine fans not showing up for a big Marvel exclusive, it might make Marvel reconsider showing at SDCC. Its a huge fandom & some assholes decided they get to charge rent on all of it. If the fans get worked up this will blow up in their faces.

    But then fans talk a good game, but still spend their money with companies who treat them like Ike treated Tina.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Ninja (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 4:55am


    From the frying pan into the fire. I don't blame them but it's best to wait and join forces with Salt Lake City Comic Con to invalidate the damn thing, adding weight to the case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2018 @ 7:02am

    As someone often struggling to come up with names for superhero character alias' in the face of two companies who have in the past insisted they own the word superhero, the true absurdity of this situation is just how many ways are there to factually and literally convey what their event is, a convention regarding comics, before you simply aren't allowed to call your convention what it is?

    The absolute absurdity of this is that this is effectively perusing lawsuits for telling people what event they are attending! It's like getting in trouble for calling your library a library, as every library I've ever seen does.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Thad, 10 Jan 2018 @ 8:39am


    To date, SDCC hasn't gone after the "Comicon" version of the word. I assumed this was because the first comic convention, the New York Comicon, predated SDCC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 8:50am

    Re: Proof that SDCC's win was empty

    Worth fighting for (the principle if not the thing itself), but not worth paying for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    John85851 (profile), 10 Jan 2018 @ 10:34am

    Is SDCC even a comic book convention any more?

    I know this is probably a fool's errand, but I would almost go on the legal offensive and claim "San Diego Comic Con" is more about pop culture than comic books, and therefore, can't own "comic con" since it's clearly not a "comic book convention".

    Just look at the trailers, cast and crew panels, and sneak peeks for "Twilight", "Star Trek", "Star Wars", and "Avatar", none of which are comic books.
    And how about the announcement of exclusive toys for "Star Wars" at SDCC... when neither toys nor movies are comic books.

    It would be like me owning a show called "San Diego Auto Show" and then suing "Salt Lake City Auto Show" because I think I own the trademark on "auto show"... even though most of the vehicles at my show are motorcycles, not automobiles.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Thad, 10 Jan 2018 @ 11:00am

    Re: Is SDCC even a comic book convention any more?

    Eh. It's true that there's a lot of non-comics stuff at CCI these days. But it's also true that you can still spend the entire weekend just attending comics panels and signings.

    I've been to Phoenix Comicon a couple times. The crowds were pretty overwhelming, but it had a great guest list and not very many lines; you could walk right up to guys like Neal Adams, Peter David, Don Rosa, Mike and Laura Allred, Stuart and Kathryn Immonen, and Ben Templesmith, to name a few. (The only two lines I remember seeing -- for comics artists and writers; there were generally lines for TV celebrities -- were for Kevin Eastman, the co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Greg Capullo, who at the time was the artist on Batman.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Reverend Dak (profile), 16 Jan 2018 @ 1:22pm

    Until a sensible judge determines that comic con or comicon is a generic term for a Comic Convention, all the competing comic cons should agree to something similar, and NOT allow SDCC to use it. Like Comic Convention. I mean, if SDCC really believed that they're exclusively entitled to comic con or even comicon, shouldn't the convention be called just Comic Con(tm).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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