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Comic-Con Case Nets $4M Attorney's Fees in 20K Case

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Comic-Con won a trademark lawsuit over its name, but winning another $4 million for attorney's fees in the case is no laughing matter.

It's more of a "you've got to be kidding me" thing, especially to the defendants who were found liable for infringing on the Comic-Con name. A jury said the organizers of a Salt Lake "Comic-Con" infringed on the original San Diego Comic-Con brand.

Jurors awarded $20,000 in damages for the infringement, and then the judge added $3.76 million in fees and $212,323 in costs. Like we said, not funny.

Not Amused

Apparently, Judge Anthony Battaglia was not amused by the defendants' conduct in the case. He had "especially harsh words" for the Utah organizers, chastizing them for their "head in the sand" litigation strategies and "nonsensical" and "faulty" legal arguments, according to reports.

The jury said the infringement was not willful, but the judge said the fees were justified because of the "exceptional" nature of the case. Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, in a statement on Facebook, said they plan to appeal.

"We do not expect a $4 million attorney fee award predicated on a $20,000 jury verdict to survive appellate review," they said.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will decide the issue, but in the meantime TechDirt is calling the fee award "bonkers." The ribald report also said "holy s***," apparently because that's not a trademarked phrase.

Fee Impact

"The money is one thing, but the injunction is what will really have an impact for other conventions throughout the country," Timothy Geirner wrote.

Festivals throughout the country use a version of "comic-con" -- a shortened reference to "comic convention" -- in their promotions. After the federal court ruling, they will have to use another description or pay licensing fees.

Maybe "Not Comic-Con" could work, although that is not very funny either.

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