San Diego Comic-Con unhappy with Salt Lake’s con
Entertainment • San Diego’s legal team sends Salt Lake organizers a letter to cease and desist.
Published: July 27, 2014 11:39AM
Updated: July 28, 2014 11:09AM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Characters in costume at Salt Lake Comic Con in Salt Lake City Saturday, September 7, 2013.

San Diego Comic-Con is not a fan of Salt Lake Comic Con’s similar name.

The organizers of the biggest comic book convention in America sent a cease and desist letter on Friday to the coordinators of Salt Lake City’s convention — the third largest — telling them to stop using “Comic Con” in the name. While the Utahns disagree, the San Diego convention’s lawyers argue that “Comic Con” is their trademark.

“Attendees, exhibitors and fans seeing use of ‘Comic Con’ in connection with your convention will incorrectly assume that your convention is in some way affiliated with [San Diego Comic-Con],” the letter reads.

The lawyers point out that a business contacted them about a car seen in San Diego skinned to promote Salt Lake Comic Con, believing it belonged to the San Diego event, which is continuing this weekend.

The car in question is a red Audi sporting the Salt Lake Comic Con name and the dates of the next one — Sept. 4-6. The Utah organizers intended to take pictures of their upcoming celebrity guests with the car.

Dan Farr, co-founder of Salt Lake Comic Con, calls the cease and desist order “baseless,” and one that San Diego’s team has tried before.

“We’re puzzled why Salt Lake Comic Con was apparently singled out amongst the hundreds of Comic Cons around the country and the world,” Farr said in a statement. “We intend to vigorously defend ourselves from this frivolous action.”

Farr and his co-founder Bryan Brandenburg first received a call from the San Diego lawyers on Thursday, as they were transporting the Audi to California.

“They did tell us on the phone, ‘If you bring that car down we’re going to take legal action,’” said Brandenburg, who is also the chief marketing officer.

But San Diego had “no right to tell us where we can take our car,”he added — and after the letter arrived, they realized that there was no salvaging the professional relationship and went ahead with the photo-shoot plans anyway, he said.

Salt Lake Comic Con set a record for the biggest turnout for a new comic book convention last year with an estimated 72,000 attendees. Capitalizing on that success, the organizers launched a spring version of the event and called it FanXperience — a name that the San Diego team does not mind.

The San Diego legal team would be fine with Farr using FanXperience for the late summer event as well, or expanding the name to Salt Lake Comic Convention.

But submitting to the order would threaten “all other Comic Cons by trying to prohibit them from using the term,” Brandenburg said in a statement.

He pointed out that San Diego Comic-Con tried and failed to trademark “Comic Con” in 1995.

“Furthermore, precedence for the mark ‘Comic Con’ was set when Denver Comic Con received a trademark for their convention [in November]. Nobody owns the words ‘Comic Con’… and the United States Patent and Trademark Office has already ruled on this.”

As Brandenburg pointed out, American’s second-largest comic book convention, New York Comic Con, also uses the name.

This is not the first time Salt Lake Comic Con has ruffled the San Diego team. When the Utahns announced the first FanXperience’s dates — Easter weekend — San Diego Comic-Con representatives questioned why the event was running concurrently with WonderCon, another pop-culture convention they put together in Southern California, Brandenburg said.

“They were upset we didn’t contact them first,” he said. That, plus Salt Lake Comic Con’s historic opening, likely put them on San Diego’s radar, the chief marketing officer figured.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda

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