Source: Bloomberg, San Diego Union-Tribune, Salt Lake Tribune, Law360
SAN DIEGO – On August 23, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony J. Battaglia affirmed a unanimous December 2017 jury verdict finding that Dan Farr Productions, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg (collectively DFP) infringed the “Comic-Con” family of trademarks owned by San Diego Comic Convention, by operating conventions under the name “Salt Lake Comic Con.” In a series of post-trial rulings, Judge Battaglia also awarded nearly $4 million in legal fees and costs to San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC) and permanently enjoined DFP from using the “Comic-Con” marks and variants thereof.
In his ruling against DFP, Judge Battaglia found that SDCC is entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees and costs due to the “exceptional” nature of the case.
“At every opportunity, DFP has repeated, re-argued, and recycled arguments already briefed by both parties and analyzed and ruled on by the court,” Judge Battaglia wrote. “This type of wasteful litigation tactic forced SDCC to expend extra, unnecessary legal fees and drove this court to squander already limited judicial resources.”
SDCC owns several registered incontestable trademarks, including the Comic-Con marks it has used in connection with SDCC’s conventions held annually since 1970. In 2013, DFP began holding Salt Lake Comic Con conventions in Utah. Communications introduced at trial showed that Farr and Brandenburg were fully aware of SDCC’s Comic-Con trademarks when they made the decision to use Comic Con in the name of their conventions. Communications also showed that Farr and Brandenburg intended to “hi-jack” the Comic-Con brand so they could “leverage the brand equity” to promote their conventions. DFP went so far as to bring an Audi R8 skinned with “Salt Lake Comic Con” branding to San Diego and drive it around the Convention Center where SDCC’s Comic-Con convention was being held. The current rulings bring to a close litigation that has been ongoing since 2014.
“We are very pleased with the Court’s orders— justice has finally been served,” said Pillsbury partner Peter Hahn, who represented SDCC. “The rulings confirm that defendants and their attorneys engaged in outrageous conduct before the lawsuit was filed, throughout the case, at trial and post-trial. Ultimately, San Diego Comic Convention achieved what it has sought all along—an end to defendants’ pervasive infringement of the Comic-Con trademarks and an end to their brazen efforts to trade off the reputation and goodwill associated with the Comic-Con brand. The Court’s rulings affirm without question that the Comic-Con marks are valid and incontestable and provide support for San Diego Comic Convention’s continuing efforts to protect its Comic-Con brand against infringement by others.”
“San Diego Comic Convention has used the Comic-Con brand in connection with our comics and popular arts conventions for almost 50 years,” said SDCC Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer. “We have invested substantial time, talent and resources in the brand, resulting in worldwide recognition of the Comic-Con convention held annually in San Diego. We are grateful to the jury that found in our favor and to the Court that upheld the jury verdict. While we are obviously pleased with the final outcome, we must double our efforts to do what is our primary objective; to celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics and related popular art forms to art and culture. We will do this through our conventions Comic-Con in San Diego, WonderCon in Anaheim and, soon, the new Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego.”
Pillsbury lawyers Callie Bjurstrom, Peter Hahn and Michelle Herrera led the trial team representing San Diego Comic Convention.
San Diego Comic Convention is a non-profit educational corporation dedicated to celebrating and promoting comics and the popular arts.