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'Comic Con' Gag Order Vacated by 9th Circuit

By William Vogeler, Esq. on October 30, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Did you hear the inside joke about the Comic Con case?

Didn't think so. That's because a judge issued a prior restraint in the pending litigation.

The joke's on the judge, however, because the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals didn't think that was funny in Dan Farr Productions v. United States District Court.

"Comic Con" Trademark

The case started when the San Diego Comic Convention filed a trademark action against Dan Farr Productions' use of the mark "comic-con" or "comic con." The case has drawn nationwide attention because "comic cons" have been held in hundreds of venues across the United States.

A court decision may change all that. If the judge outlaws the use of the name, some comic cons could become comic convicts.

Seriously, the case is not over. It is set for trial on November 28. The judge's orders, on the other hand, died like a bad punchline in the appellate court.

Gag Orders

Judge Anthony Battaglia issued protective orders against Dan Farr Productions after the company boasted on social media it had secured "more than 200,000 media articles reporting on the case" with links to documents filed with the court suggesting it was winning.

The judge said the actions threatened a fair trial, and ordered the producers not to make "editorial comments, opinions, or conclusions about the litigation" online. He also prohibited them from re-publishing any publicly available documents -- including court documents -- about the case.

"[N]ow I'm basically saying you post no documents about the issues in the case. No comment. No postings," he said.

The Ninth Circuit didn't get it. "The orders at issue are unconstitutional prior restraints on speech," the panel said.

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