Salt Lake Comic Con Seizes San Diego Weekend Opportunity to Publicize Their Show as Being Bullied
The Salt Lake Comic Con, to be held in Utah in early September, is taking advantage of everyone’s focus this weekend on the San Diego Comic-Con to get attention by complaining about the bigger show picking on them. They claim to have received a cease-and-desist letter stating that their use of “Comic Con” violates the San Diego show’s trademark.
I’m expressing this skeptically because the Salt Lake Comic Con got another round of press three months ago by claiming that their second show ever, FanXperience, drew over 100,000 people, suddenly vaulting them into third place in the list of all cons based on attendance, a claim that was later called into question and revealed to be only an estimate, similar to the way they overstate their social media reach based on multipliers.
So back to the legal kerfluffle — one thing that the Salt Lake folks are downplaying is that the San Diego show lawyer states, in his letter, that Salt Lake had a car wrapped in promo material around during the San Diego show week, an activity that legitimately would be confusing to customers. Legally, trademarks exist to prevent customer confusion, so if San Diego can demonstrate that happening, they have a stronger case for infringement. When I asked the Salt Lake promoter about this, he responded, “The folks at SL Comic Con decided against bringing the logo-wrapped vehicle to San Diego for the convention.” Which indicates that it was their plan originally, to poke the bear.
Salt Lake is asserting that Comic Con is a generic trademark. (Although San Diego owns “Comic-Con”.) It appears that while other shows have filed for trademarks, “Salt Lake Comic Con” is not protected.
In a press release, show organizer Dan Farr states, “We’re puzzled why Salt Lake Comic Con was apparently singled out amongst the hundreds of Comic Cons around the country and the world.” I suggest he reread the actual cease-and-desist letter he posted, then, which has the stuff about the car in it. At least a show as big as Salt Lake claims to be will likely have their own lawyer who can deal with this properly, instead of hashing out legal debates in the public arena.
Don’t get me wrong, I think “Comic Con” is (or should be) generic by this point, but I don’t like people pretending they’re entirely innocent to play for sympathy on the emotions of readers who don’t check details. Salt Lake Comic Con bears some responsibility, in my opinion, for inviting this on themselves through their planned guerrilla marketing.