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Comic Con -- the con stands for convention, obviously. Many years ago, the San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC) started the trend of nerdfests. They were also denied a trademark over the obviously abbreviated "Comic Con," but were granted the rights to the hyphenated "Comic-Con."
Fast forward to today, and there are comic conventions nationwide, including one in Salt Lake City (the Salt Lake Comic Con, or SLCC). The SLCC folks, seeking to promote their upcoming convention, drove a vinyl-skinned vehicle around the much larger SDCC last month, a feat of advertising that led the local folks to send a cease-and-desist letter to their alleged imitators to the north.
But do the original nerds have a case?
Late last month, SDCC's BigLaw counsel sent a letter to the SLCC folks, explaining their frustration.
"Attendees, exhibitors and fans seeing use of 'Comic Con' in connection with your conversation will incorrectly assume that your convention is in someway affiliated with SDCC and its Comic-Con convention," Peter K. Hahn of Pillsbury wrote on behalf of the original nerd gathering.
"In fact, we are aware of multiple instances where persons have incorrectly believed that the Salt Lake City Comic Con convention was an SDCC event. One such example occurred this week when a business contacted SDCC about a vehicle skinned to promote the Salt Lake City Comic Con convention. These persons believed that this vehicle belonged to SDCC."
If so far this sounds conciliatory, just wait.
"Your use of the skinned vehicle during Comic-Con 2014 by driving it around the Comic-Con convention vicinity is clearly intended to confuse Comic-Con attendees, exhibitors and fans," he continued. "[Y]ou are blatantly and willfully attempting to confuse attendees, exhibitors and fans."
The accusations were immediately followed up by a demand that the SLCC stop using any variations of the term "Comic Con" and scrub all mentions of the terms from its website, ads, and promotional materials, plus transfer ownership of all domains containing the term. Otherwise, SDCC threatened to seek actual damages and attorney's fees.
The Trademarkology blog notes that SDCC might have met its match:
SDCC holds a federally registered trademark on "Comic-Con" with a hyphen, which bestowed certain (super)powers on SDCC related to the mark. Notably, SDCC abandoned efforts to trademark "Comic Con" without a hyphen in 1995. This created a form of kryptonite organizers of similar events may use to fight off the powers SDCC received when it obtained the mark "Comic-Con." Indeed, hundreds of events use the "Comic Con" moniker and at least one event has prevailed against SDCC's attempt to prevent the use of "Comic Con" in the past.
That past feud was between San Diego and Chicago, reports the The Salt Lake Tribune.
And for more trademark trivia, according to ICV2, the Chicago convention was originally called Chicago Comicon, and was granted a trademark on "Comicon" before the SDCC got its hyphenated mark. Their legal dispute with SDCC erupted after a couple of name changes, the last of which was Chicago Comic Con.