Salt Lake Comic Con Defendants Take the Stand

A federal jury has been hearing witness testimony this week in San Diego Comic-Con Inc.’s suit against Salt Lake Comic Con, accused of trademark infringement for using the term “comic con” in its name.

SLCC’s Dan Farr told Facebook followers on Wednesday:

I have been pretty silent about the lawsuit that Bryan [Brandenburg] and myself are involved in but today we ended witness testimonies. I wanted to express the gratitude I feel for all of the love and support we have felt because of all of the thoughts and prayers sent our way. We have received so many messages from people expressing positive thoughts that I can say that it honestly has given me strength and courage that I may not have had otherwise. I sincerely thank everyone for this support. I was very proud of Bryan’s testimony today and feel that he did a great job of telling our story and supporting our position in this. Tomorrow we will hear closing arguments from both sides and then the Jury will deliberate and potentially have an answer for us by the end of the day. Regardless of the outcome, I am so grateful for all of the love and support from everyone and the hard work that has gone into this by everyone involved.

The Deseret News covered Bryan Brandenburg’s appearance — “Salt Lake Comic Con organizer testifies he saw no trademark barrier to ‘comic con’ name”.

Although a Court of Appeals lifted the judge’s gag order on public statements, with the jury out of the room, an SDCC lawyer read one of Brandenburg’s social media posts to the judge —

The post announced that Brandenburg would take the witness stand to show that “comic con is owned by the people, by all the fans that experience the joy and celebration of comic con in cities all over the world.”

[Judge] Battaglia prohibited such arguments in the trial based on objections raised beforehand by San Diego. He warned that if Brandenburg intended to make any such statements during his testimony, “tell him to bring his toothbrush with him.”

The same applied to any of Salt Lake’s other witnesses, Battaglia indicated.

“I will put them in jail if they violate this order. They are not to escalate this case into a war involving the world,” Battaglia said.

When the jury returned, lawyers led Brandenburg through questioning:

As he and his new business partner considered starting a comic and pop culture convention in Utah in early 2013, Bryan Brandenburg fired up his computer.

He reviewed websites of other events, news stories about their conventions and online industry forums discussing them all.

What he found, he testified in court Wednesday, was inconsistency.

Varied spellings, differences in website designs and functionality, and distinct logos and themes all led Brandenburg to believe the events spread all across the country were all independent of each other, and many identified themselves as “comic cons.”

“It led me to believe we could call our company Salt Lake Comic Con,” Brandenburg testified.

…On cross examination Wednesday, Callie Bjurstrom, an attorney for San Diego, questioned Brandenburg on whether he reached out to anyone at San Diego Comic-Con to confirm whether they took issue with the name when Salt Lake chose it.

Brandenburg confirmed he did not.

She also presented two emails from Brandenburg, sent in the early days of Salt Lake Comic Con, discussing the businesses’ plan to “hijack” the popularity of comic con. One of the emails went on to clarify, “Comic con is just the abbreviation for comic convention.”

“Mr Brandenburg, that’s what you have done here, isn’t it? You have taken something that isn’t yours and you are using it for your own purposes, isn’t it?” Bjurstrom pressed.

“No, it is not,” Brandenburg replied.

Bjurstrom also alleged that Brandenburg didn’t do the research he talked about until after receiving the cease and desist order from San Diego Comic-Con. Brandenburg replied that was “absolutely not true.”

Trial began last week – highlights of the opening statement made by SDCC’s lawyer were reported by Courthouse News, including “She claimed the Utah organizers identified their convention as a comic con was a way to ‘steal the Comic-Con brand.’”

The defense rested Wednesday. Attorneys will make their closing arguments on Thursday, then the case will go to the jury.

[Thanks to Dave Doering for the story.]

6 thoughts on “Salt Lake Comic Con Defendants Take the Stand

  1. Actually, the abbreviation is ComiCon, not Comic Con, but I guess these people don’t understand fannish abbreviations, which go back to the 1930s and Philcon, NYCon, and 70+ years of World SF Conventions, aka Worldcons.

  2. The abbreviation of what is ComiCon? Not of either the San Diego or Salt Lake City conventions.

  3. I’m wondering why SDCC is bothering with this suit. Do they really think they’ll ever fail to sell out even if a dozen other “Comic Con”s spring up? Recent stories here have made clear that starting from scratch requires a lot of time and/or money to convince a lot of people that coming is worthwhile; if enough believe it, will that make a real difference to SDCC’s income, instead of meaning that they sell out 6 months ahead rather than 9? 10? ??

  4. Hampus Eckerman: There are actually some places that have Comicons instead of Comic Cons.

    Absolutely. I just don’t understand what Andrew Porter means by appending his correction-sounding thingie to a post about two conventions neither of which use that spelling.

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