Is Comic-Con Being A Bully Over ‘Comic Con’?

It’s the day of Comic-Con 2018 Badge Sales and many fans found out if they were naughty or nice this year. As expected, badges were sold quickly with the usual weeping and gnashing of teeth afterwards for those that weren’t so lucky. However, badge sales wasn’t the only Comic-Con related drama for the weekend. It was reported that the battle of trademark between San Diego and Salt Lake over ‘Comic-Con’ has finally come to a conclusion in favor of SDCC. Spanning a few years now, Comic-Con International was awarded $20k in damages instead of the $12 million they were asking since the jury deemed the trademark infringement was not ‘intentional’ by the organizers of Salt Lake. $12 million would have bankrupt any convention- so $20k while still a lot, it’s a slap on the hand in comparison. I’ve been getting a lot of messages asking my thoughts on this matter and fans seemed split on if this is a good thing or not.

It seems that the impulse from some is that the term ‘comic con’ is generic and broad enough in culture that it’s kind of unfair for Comic-Con Int’l to claim it. Some have called CCI petty and bullying in their desire to own this term. Since the con boom of just under a decade ago, there is now a ‘comic con’ happening almost every weekend of the year somewhere around the world- even though Comic-Con Int’l only owns SDCC and WonderCon. So how can one entity feel entitled to that prolific and illustrious title? Well, it’s easy. Quite simply, ‘comic con’ is theirs. Regardless of how much time has past, how many cons there are and who is the biggest, CCI is clearly responsible for starting and successfully establishing the brand ‘comic con’. I can assure you, Mr/Ms Comic-Con didn’t wake up a couple of months ago and on a whim, decided to draw up papers and sue a random con. After years of much discussion, negotiation and legal loop gymnastics, it was clearly time to officially reclaim their title. Established in 2013, Salt Lake Comic Con has had plenty of time to make changes to their name. It’s never fun (or seem fair) to be the first that is made an example of but I do agree with CCI and feel this has gotten out of hand.

I speak to fans more than almost anyone I know about the topic of Comic-Con. The NUMBER ONE misconception I encounter is that all comic cons are the same and run by Comic-Con International. As we all know, not all cons are made equal and the varying experiences hurt the brand of comic con. It’s not a matter of if it’s fair, its a matter of who was first. CCI has been gracious to allow other shows ride off of it’s coat tails (which EVERYONE has) and if they want to protect their brand, it’s well within their right. Should it have happened year ago? Sure. But as you can expect, trademarks and the legal system isn’t exactly simple, cheap or speedy. Salt Lake Comic Con didn’t do themselves any favors by openly stating their intentions to use Comic-Con’s momentum to benefit them.

As some of you know, I own and operate a small fashion brand. My hope and prayer is that it turns into a large fashion brand. That’s all up to how the brand is stewarded. My brand is my name and it’s suppose to mean something- hopefully something of value. It represents a message, an experience and a level of excellence. At the end of the day, without my brand, all I have is a pile of clothes. Protecting my brand is the number one priority in surviving in the marketplace. Whether you are a small merchandise company like me or a 130k+ attendee convention, without a crystal clear brand, the slope to mediocrity becomes very slippery. So say what you will about Comic-Con but I don’t think you can find an analogue example of how a giant brand can successful share it’s name with competitors. Do you know how much it benefits CCI to have other brands use its name? Nothing at all, but the same is not the true the other way around. So as painful as this is for Salt Lake (and soon to be others), this is an long overdue ruling. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out over the years and we will all have a front row seat to it. Who knows, this might mean Crazy 4 Comic Con is affected someday too. And if that’s the case, I’m sure I will find a different way to be crazy 4 comic con.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below with your thoughts on this decision or how it will impact the con community.

12 thoughts on “Is Comic-Con Being A Bully Over ‘Comic Con’?

  1. Let’s see how the appeals go but Comic Con is right Salt Lake City promoters quite honestly are dicks. Just my very honest opinion.

  2. Having been involved in more trademark infringement cases than I care to have to dredge up remembering in protecting my own company’s brand….I totally side with Comic-Con Int’l in this! When others use your name, especially those who use it and run their business terribly, YOU suffer for it. BIG TIME! I’d be highly disappointed in Comic-Con if they didn’t do all in their power to protect it! Coat tail riders need to learn the law or get hammered with it.

  3. Having fought more trademark infringement cases than I care to recount in protecting my own company name, I TOTALLY side with Comic-Con on this! I’d be highly disappointed in them if they didn’t fight to protect their identity tooth & nail, with every legal advantage they have if for no other reason than to set an example and precedent in this, and in ANY industry. When someone else uses your name, especially someone who runs their company badly, YOU suffer for it, BIG TIME. Sometimes you don’t even know the extent till years later. Funny enough, in the past I was accused of being a bulldog for protecting my own name. People don’t seem to *get* the law, or even bother to learn it before picking a name, but would do well to learn it…or get hammered with it. Kudos Comic-Con!

  4. Well my issue with the whole ordeal is CCI did not create the Word Comic-Con itself, it’s like them saying that the no one even the City can use the name San Diego anymore because they feel it impacts their copyright!

    • They also don’t even focus on Comics as even being a main part of the Con at all! So to stop every or anyone from using the name or making people pay u a royalty (which could come next) to use the name of something u barley even have anybooths of anymore and the booths that are there have outrageously priced comics is just ridiculous by far! They should be called San Diego Entertainment Con

  5. Have to agree. At first I didn’t fully understand why, but now I see their point. Surprised that most fans think all comic cons are run by the same company; I would expect that from non-fans, and I think this is a good reason to protect the brand, among others.

  6. As for the question posed about “how it will affect the con community”…..let’s face it, this is an industry where idea theft and infringement run rampant. If following the letter of trademark law does not occur at the highest, most visible level (to set an example against infringement) then WHERE???

  7. Tony, I’ve been looking around the Salt Lake site and don’t see any indication that they are a nonprofit like SDCC. If they are for-profit, then all the more reason for SDCC – a longstanding nonprofit organization – to protect its brand.

  8. Pingback: YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 2018’s TOP 10 COMIC CONS – The Con Guy

  9. Pingback: THE CON GUY’s ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 2018’s TOP 10 COMIC CONS – The Con Guy

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