We were just talking about the odd ruling that came down in which the court overseeing the trademark dispute between the San Diego Comic-Con and the former Salt Lake Comic Con somehow awarded $ 4 million in attorney’s fees, despite the jury award for trademark infringement amounting only to $ 20k. In addition to the award of attorney’s fees, Judge Battaglia also issued an injunction barring the Salt Lake show from calling itself any variation of the term “comic con” but, oddly, refused to issue a similar injunction barring it from calling itself a “comic convention.” As we noted at the time, it’s plainly absurd that the “vention” difference there is doing that much heavy lifting in the court’s mind.
But the reverberations of the ruling are now being felt throughout the country, with one company that puts on many comic conventions doing sweeping name changes for many of its shows.
Tampa Bay Comic Con has changed its name to Tampa Bay Comic Convention. The change comes less than two weeks after a federal judge in California ordered organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con to pay nearly $ 4 million in attorneys’ fees and costs to San Diego Comic Convention in a trademark infringement suit.
Tampa Bay Comic Con co-founder Stephen Solomon, a manager at Imaginarium, the company that has run Tampa Bay Comic Con and similarly-branded comic conventions around the U.S. since 2010, confirmed the name change Wednesday after re-branded images appeared on the convention’s social media. Solomon declined to comment on whether that ruling had anything to do with the Tampa Bay Comic Con name change.
He can decline to comment on that all he wants, but it’s pretty plain what is going on here. Those putting on other comic conventions throughout the country have been keeping a watchful eye on the fight between SLCC and SDCC. With this enormous award of attorney’s fees after such a paltry judgement, convention organizers are simply doing the math and realizing that even if they convince a jury that its infringement isn’t willful in the future, they can still get slammed with attorney’s fees. They also likely know that after the ruling on the injunction that prevents SLCC from using any variation of the “comic con” term, the SDCC is surely coming for them next. And, so, they unilaterally disarm.
It’s at this point that I will insist again on pointing out how absurd every last bit of this is. To allow “comic con” to be a trademarkable term, but to admit that “comic convention” is not because of its descriptive nature, is so silly as to make one’s head hurt. For millions of dollars to be exchanged because of the difference between those two terms, all on the pretense that the public is somehow confused as to whether the SDCC is in charge of all of these conventions, is crazy-pants. For the result of all of this to be tens or hundreds of other conventions proactively changing their generic names to slightly more generic names is downright infuriating.
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