San Diego Comic-Con Legally Bars Competitor From Talking

San Diego Comic-Con logo

Three years ago, the San Diego Comic-Con started trying to bar the Salt Lake Comic Con from using the term “Comic Con”. The Salt Lake show used this legal case as an excuse for more publicity. Until now.

Last week, at the San Diego show’s request, a judge placed a gag order on the Salt Lake organizers. The San Diego show seems to be concerned that the case is being tried in the court of public opinion, and they’re losing.

The judge is preventing both sides from making statements accusing, suggesting, or implying that San Diego Comic-Con lied or committed fraud. Additionally, the parties aren’t allowed to discuss the alleged genericness of the term “comic con”, how the mark may or may not be descriptive, and whether San Diego Comic-Con abandoned its trademark rights.

The argument being that there have been so many “comic cons” across the country over the past few years, none of which have had legal problems with the venerable San Diego show.

San Diego Comic-Con logo

Techdirt, where I found out about this action, has some biting commentary, which includes these quotes:

SDCC is increasingly looking like a massive censorial bully.

… if I had to summarize it, it’s basically: “it’s no fair that Salt Lake Comic Con is getting good press coverage and we’re being mocked, so the court should silence them.”

SDCC’s high priced fancy lawyers then admit that this goes against the basic First Amendment protections anyone has… but argues that’s fine and dandy because — *gosh* — some people are being mean to them online.

The rest of the request for the gag order is basically “damn, the other side has been effective in telling their story to the press. That’s so unfair.”

In case you don’t want to read my two posts linked at the start of this article, here’s key background from the Hollywood Reporter link:

A decade ago, San Diego Comic Convention obtained a trademark registration for “comic-con.” This happened after the trademark examiner initially refused, noting that the mark was merely descriptive. To show otherwise, San Diego Comic Convention executive director Fae Desmond submitted a declaration that “comic-con” had “been used continuously and exclusively in interstate commerce … for over 36 years.”

Note that their trademark is on “comic-con”, not “comic con”. I think this will turn out to be key. But I want to be clear that this is just my opinion, because the San Diego Comic-Con subpoenaed Techdirt after they wrote about the show.

it didn’t stop you from sending a bogus subpoena to us (and who knows how many other media properties), potentially creating massive chilling effects on media companies reporting on your silly dispute.



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