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San Diego Comic-Con tells Salt Lake convention to cease and desist

SAN DIEGO — Two comic book conventions could be heading to battle over the use of "Comic Con."

Salt Lake Comic Con is a relatively new venture — it hosted its first event last year — but drew more than 100,000 participants to the tune of $1.8 million in revenues at its most recent FanX convention in April. San Diego Comic-Con dates back to 1970 and has grown into the largest comic book convention in the world.

But Saturday, its organizers showed their ire with the burgeoning convention when they sent the Utah-based organizers a cease and desist letter arguing that the name, Salt Lake Comic Con, amounts to trademark infringement.

"Attendees, exhibitors and fans seeing use of 'Comic Con' in connection with your convention will incorrectly assume that your convention is in some way affiliated with SDCC and its Comic-Con convention," the letter from attorneys for San Diego Comic-Con wrote in the letter sent Friday. "In fact, we are aware of multiple instances where persons have incorrectly believed that the Salt Lake Comic Con convention was an SDCC event."

They are asking for damages, as well as an injunction that would prevent future use of "Comic Con." They said they would forego seeking damages and attorneys fees if Salt Lake Comic Con quits using the name.

Bryan Brandenburg, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Salt Lake Comic Con, said Saturday that the request is "outrageous."

"We've had meetings with a couple of CEOs of the major conventions that use 'comic con' as well, and they just kind of roll their eyes at this whole situation because it's so far-fetched," Brandenburg said.

Salt Lake Comic Con organizers looked into the matter while getting their own trademark and believe they are in the clear, he said.

"According to the government trademark office, San Diego Comic-Con tried to get a trademark on Comic space Con before and they were denied," Brandenburg said. "They do have Comic dash Con."

San Diego Comic-Con organizers already tried to prohibit Chicago Comic Con from using the name and failed, he said. Conventions in New York and Denver use "Comic Con" as well.

Brandenburg suggested the issue may have something to do with the success of the FanX event, which overlapped with San Diego Comic-Con's WonderCon in Anaheim. He said those in California called when the FanX dates were announced and asked why those in Utah hadn't consulted with them before picking the date.

"We're like, 'Well, you had not announced your date, and it's the only time we could get into the Salt Palace Convention Center," Brandenburg explained. "So we ended up having our FanX with 100,000 people the same weekend as their WonderCon, and they didn't have nearly the attendance as we did."

The letter didn't necessarily surprise Brandenburg, he said, because Salt Lake Comic Con was threatened with legal action should organizers bring a promotional vehicle to the San Diego event. He said Salt Lake Comic Con organizers decided they didn't want any enemies and stopped the car en route in Las Vegas.

But things changed when they received the letter.

"It appeared that the damage had already been done anyway," Brandenburg said, noting that they did bring the car to get some photos with guests who will be at Salt Lake Comic Con in September.

Brandenburg said lawyers will formally respond to the cease and desist letter next week, and Salt Lake Comic Con organizers will continue to plan for the September event.

Still, Brandenburg said he and co-founder Dan Farr beleive it was important to stand up to San Diego Comic-Con

"They don't own the 'Comic Con' that they're requesting, and we feel like rather than dealing with this behind closed doors, we feel like we need to get out in the open and let the world know what they're trying to do," he said.

Contributing: Sandra Yi

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