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Jury sides with San Diego Comic-Con in lawsuit against Salt Lake Comic Con

Posted at 4:45 PM, Dec 08, 2017

SAN DIEGO -- A federal jury has ruled Salt Lake Comic Con organizers violated trademark law when they improperly used the words "comic con."

In a verdict handed down Friday afternoon, the jury sided with San Diego Comic-Con, which sued the Salt Lake event and its organizers, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg. The jury found San Diego Comic-Con's trademark is valid, and Salt Lake Comic Con used it without permission.

San Diego Comic-Con sought as much as $12 million in damages from Farr, Brandenburg and Salt Lake Comic Con. Instead, the jury awarded them only $20,000 finding no willful infringement of the copyright.

"I felt like it was a draw," Bryan Brandenburg, one of Salt Lake Comic Con's co-founders, said in an interview Friday with FOX 13.

San Diego Comic-Con International sued in 2014, accusing the Salt Lake event of infringing on their trademark to the words "comic con." Salt Lake Comic Con insisted the term is generic, pointing to more than 100 other events held across the country that use the term.

The verdict could potentially impact other comic cons across the country. In a statement, San Diego Comic-Con said all it wanted was for Salt Lake to stop using its trademarks.

Read the full statement from San Diego Comic-Con here:

San Diego Comic Convention has used the Comic-Con trademarks in connection with our comics and popular arts conventions for almost 50 years.  We have invested substantial time, talent and resources in our brand resulting in world-wide recognition of the Comic-Con convention held annually in San Diego.   The jury today upheld San Diego Comic Convention’s trademarks as valid.  The jury also found that Dan Farr Productions, Daniel Farr and Bryan Brandenburg each infringed San Diego Comic Convention’s marks.  San Diego Comic Convention respects the decision of the jury.  From the beginning all that we asked of the defendants was to stop using our Comic-Con trademarks.  Today we obtained a verdict that will allow us to achieve this.  For that we are grateful.

Brandenburg said they were considering whether to appeal. Right now, Salt Lake Comic Con has proceedings underway at with U.S. trademark officials to cancel San Diego Comic-Con's trademark. For now, he said, they would keep using the name "comic con."

"Yes, because there's the appeals process and there's a cancellation proceeding at the trademark office," Brandenburg told FOX 13. "Now, after the motions go through and they get an injunction to change our name that might be a possibility. But as of now, we're not required to change our name."

Salt Lake Comic Con organizers have previously told FOX 13 the legal battle will not affect their ability to put on the next event, which draws more than 100,000 people to the Salt Palace.

Sharon Chen of FOX 13 sister station FOX 5 San Diego contributed to this report.