Salt Lake Comic Con wants a new trial in dispute over its name

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Salt Lake Comic Con's FanX 2016 attendees mingle during the three-day pop-culture convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Friday, March 25, 2016.

A fight between organizers of Salt Lake City and San Diego pop culture conventions over the “comic con” name might not be over.

Last month, a federal jury sided with San Diego Comic-Con in its trademark infringement dispute with Salt Lake Comic Con. The jurors determined at the end of an eight-day trial in U.S. District Court in San Diego that the California convention’s trademarks — Comic-Con; Comic Con International; and its “eye logo,” which is a grayscale cartoon drawing of an eye — are valid and that the Utah convention had infringed on them.

The jury also found that the infringement was not willful and awarded $20,000 in damages to the California company, which had sought $12 million, including $9.6 million for a “corrective advertising” campaign.

On Tuesday, lawyers for Salt Lake Comic Con filed a motion for a new trial. The company says evidence was wrongly excluded and improper jury instructions undercut the evidence that was presented.

Part of the excluded evidence was testimony about the use of “comic con” by third-party competitors, which could make the term generic, the motion says. In addition, according to the motion, the trial judge gave a defective instruction that said competitive use is inadequate to establish genericness.

San Diego Comic-Con sued in 2014, saying the use of “comic con” in the Salt Lake company’s name infringes on its trademark and confuses the public into thinking the two conventions are linked. In addition to monetary damages, the suit sought an injunction barring the Utah organizers from using the term “comic con” for any event, logo, trademark or website.

Technically, San Diego has the hyphenated “Comic-Con” trademarked, not “Comic Con.” However, its legal team argued that the similarity of “Comic Con” in the Utah event’s name, without the hyphen, confused people into thinking the event is associated with the San Diego convention.

Salt Lake Comic Con countered that “comic con” is a generic term that has been used by hundreds of comic cons around the country and the world during the past 50 years.