California infringement litigation disputes ‘comic-con’ use

The name of a business helps California consumers identify the source of products or services they like. Some people or companies want to cash in on a business’s success by muscling in on that name or trademark. Trademark infringement litigation often occurs when individuals or businesses offering like products also have the same or similar names.

What may have started out as a quirky gathering of comic book fans has evolved into a well-known West Coast event. Comic-Con in San Diego has attracted comic book lovers nationwide and the celebrities who bring those characters to life on TV and in films. Devoted fans circulate the convention often dressed like their favorite comic-book characters.

Comic-Con’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed. The organizers of San Diego’s Comic-Con convention are not pleased an event in Utah is called Salt Lake Comic Con. A recently-filed trademark infringement lawsuit accuses the Salt Lake event’s founders of profiting off the California convention’s name.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the use of “comic con” in the name of the Salt Lake convention. The plaintiffs stated use of the name was confusing to consumers, who may believe the events or related products are somehow connected. The defendants feel their event’s instant success caused the plaintiff to react.

A co-founder of Salt Lake Comic Con said the legal action had no merit. He believes the lawsuit was filed because the Salt Lake convention drew record crowds from its 2013 start — a second related convention attracted even more fans. Salt Lake’s founders also dispute the claim, since so many other events around the country apparently are also called “Comic Con.”

Courts in trademark infringement disputes have to determine whether a defendant’s name misleads the public about products or product sources. Registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office isn’t necessary to protect a trademark, but an intellectual property attorney is likely to recommend it.

Source: NBC San DIego, “San Diego Comic-Con Sues Utah Convention Over Name” Aug. 10, 2014