Both Sides Seek to Overturn Verdict in San Diego Comic-Con v Salt Lake Comic Con Lawsuit

Following a jury verdict that left the San Diego Comic-Con (the nominal winner) and Salt Lake Comic Con dissatisfied, both have filed post-trial motions seeking to have the result set aside.

A federal jury ruled in December that Salt Lake Comic Con infringed on a trademark held by San Diego Comic-Con by using the words “comic con” in their name without permission. However, the jury did not award the $12 million in damages sought by San Diego Comic-Con, only $20,000, finding no willful infringement of the copyright by SLCC.

SLCC organizers Daniel Farr and Bryan Brandenburg are asking U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia for a new trial, arguing that the court precluded important evidence and gave the jury improper instructions. (Read their motion for s new trial here.) The Hollywood Reporter adds —

They’re also renewing a motion for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of genericness. Battaglia in September indicated the mark may have become generic, but left the matter for a jury to decide, and he denied a similar motion made at the close of the trial. Now, Farr and Brandenburg are again asking him to reconsider and decide the issue himself.

(Read the motion about genericness here.)

SDCC seeks to overturn the jury’s decision for reasons of its own, unhappy that the jurors found that the infringement wasn’t willful, and awarded paltry damages. They are asking Judge Battaglia to either issue a judgment in their favor as a matter of law or, alternatively, to grant a new trial on the issues of wilfulness and damages.

SDCC attorney Callie Bjurstrom described the arguments to The Hollywood Reporter:

“SDCC argues that in view of the documentary evidence presented at trial and the testimony of Defendants’ witnesses, the only reasonable conclusion the jury could have reached was a finding of willfulness,” she writes. “SDCC further argues that rampant mistrial conduct by Defendants and their counsel, including impermissible and highly prejudicial statements made in opening and closing statements, as well as consistent evidentiary missteps that violated numerous prior Court orders, Defendants prevented the jury from reaching a reasonable conclusion on the issue of willfulness.”

Bjurstrom also says SDCC is asking the court to enter judgment as a matter of law that it is entitled to an award of the disgorgement of the Salt Lake event’s profits.

SDCC also wants a permanent injunction to bar Farr and Brandenburg from continuing to refer to the Salt Lake event as a “comic con.” (Read the motion here.)

And SDCC wants the court to award $4.5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, because of the strength of the evidence presented about its trademark, and to punish the “unreasonable manner in which” Farr and Brandenburg defended themselves:

“Defendants admit they were aware of SDCC’s registered marks prior to selecting the infringing marks,” writes Herrera. “Defendants admit they never bothered to seek legal advice regarding the significance of SDCC’s federal trademark registrations. Defendants looked around and saw that others were using ‘comic con’ with and without a hyphen and assumed they could too.”

A hearing on the motions is currently set for May 3.

[Thanks to Dave Doering for the story.]

5 thoughts on “Both Sides Seek to Overturn Verdict in San Diego Comic-Con v Salt Lake Comic Con Lawsuit

  1. Plus the con formerly known as Phoenix Comicon has a lawsuit against SDCC as well.

  2. I’m going back through the archives of Starlog, and “XXXX Comic Con” was a title that was applied to a half-dozen unaffiliated cons a year in the 70s and 80s. I don’t see how this could work.

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