Popular Salt Lake comic convention fears it will be ‘destroyed' and Utah’s economy affected over court-ordered payment of $4 million in trademark battle

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune FANx co-founders Dan Farr, center left, and Bryan Brandenburg, next to him, pose for a photo with fans in the Capitol rotunda, Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

The producers of a wildly popular comic convention in Salt Lake City say a $4 million court judgment in a trademark infringement battle will equate to a “death sentence” for the company — and they warn that Utah’s economy could be negatively affected by a bankruptcy.

Dan Farr Productions, the company behind the FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, filed an emergency motion with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, asking for a temporary postponement on the payment pending appeal in court.

If the $4 million judgment is enforced, the company will be “destroyed,” the motion states, costing Utah’s economy “millions of dollars.” But the court “likely wouldn’t harm” the other party — San Diego Comic-Con, by granting a stay.

The California-based convention sued the event formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con in 2014 about the use of “comic con” in the Utah company’s name. San Diego Comic-Con’s legal team argued that even without the hyphen, those words infringed on its own trademark and confused people into thinking the events were associated.

A federal jury sided with San Diego Comic-Con at the end of last year but found there had been no willful infringement and awarded FanX a slight break on attorney fees. The jury awarded $20,000 in damages to San Diego Comic-Con, which had originally sought $12 million, and $3.9 million in attorney fees and costs rather than the $5 million its lawyers had initially asked for.

Still, the Utah-based company said in its motion Wednesday that the “nearly $4 million award is wildly excessive.”

The producers of FanX are also protesting a judgment that FanX stop using the phrase “formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con” in advertising and social media and delete any posts before the court ruling that refer to their event as “comic con.”

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes filed a declaration in support of the company’s emergency motion on Wednesday, writing that the conventions have a “positive impact” on Utah’s economy.

“The Conventions continue to be an important part of the cultural and economic fabric of Utah and ending them would have a negative impact on the public of the state,” he wrote.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams also weighed in, noting the large turnout at the most recent FanX event — approximately 110,000 attendees, with nearly 25 percent from out of state.

“This activity and the influx of visitors benefits our economy and raises tax revenue, including through the purchase of hotel rooms, restaurant meals, alcohol, gasoline, taxies and other types of transportation, and goods purchased from vendors at the Conventions,” he wrote.

The court has yet to issue a decision on the motion.