In a ruling with implications for the array of comic-book conventions drafting off the notoriety of the original Comic-Con in San Diego, a federal judge has dealt a Salt Lake City version a resounding defeat.
Judge Anthony Battaglia in the U.S. District Court of Southern California issued an injunction against the Utah convention and also ordered defendants Bryan Brandenburg and Daniel Farr to pay $4 million in legal fees. The ruling (read it HERE) follows a jury verdict in December 2017 that the Salt Lake Comic Con overstepped the trademark line, though it awarded only $20,000 in damages and did not buy two of the complaint’s three main arguments.
Comic-Con organizers nevertheless wanted to recoup their legal expenses and seek a permanent injunction preventing Salt Lake from continuing to operate under the “Comic Con” banner. Battaglia backed the plaintiffs on both points, getting in some sharp digs at Farr’s production company, Dan Farr Productions, in his opinion.
“At every opportunity, DFP has repeated, re-argued, and recycled arguments already briefed by both parties and analyzed and ruled on by the court,” the judge wrote. “This type of wasteful litigation tactic forced SDCC to expend extra, unnecessary legal fees and drove this court to squander already limited judicial resources.”
The defendants repeatedly and “astonishingly” cited the Oxford Dictionary definition of “con” in mounting their defense, the judge noted. “Ultimately, resembling a broken record, DFP has repetitively restated and rehashed several contentions that they were unable to advance successfully prior to trial,” he wrote. “This type of cyclical motion practice is objectively unreasonable and has justified attorneys’ fees.”
The case began in 2014 when San Diego Comic-Con filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement over Farr and Brandenburg’s promotion of Salt Lake Comic Con, which started in 2013. The San Diego organization noted its non-profit status since being formed in 1975 and its history of hosting comic-book conventions since 1970.
Numerous film-and-TV-fueled events have grown dramatically in recent years under the “Comic Con” label, leaving major questions for their strategies in the wake of the ruling. One such event is New York Comic Con, whose 2018 edition is slated for early October.