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'It's San Diego vs. everyone else' in comic con lawsuit, Utah organizers say

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Comic Con will continue its trademark battle in federal court.

With settlement talks stalled in the lawsuit between the long-established San Diego Comic-Con and Utah's 3-year-old pop culture convention, a federal judge has given until the end of the month for the two to begin scheduling pretrial hearings. In the lawsuit, the West Coast convention argues Salt Lake has no claim to the "comic con" name.

Salt Lake Comic Con organizers have been steadfast in their very public assertion that San Diego Comic-Con has no right to the name, saying the volley against their event represents a threat to similarly named conventions across the country. Though they have not been identified, the Salt Lake organizers say many of those conventions are falling in line behind them.

"A lot of people have figured out that our case is the nexus of the 'comic con' trademark issue," said Bryan Brandenburg, one of Salt Lake Comic Con's two founders. "It's San Diego versus everyone else."

San Diego Comic-Con International filed the lawsuit in Southern California's U.S. District Court last August, attempting to sue Salt Lake Comic Con for using the moniker "comic con" in its name and promotional materials. The Utah convention went on a month later to put on its largest event to date, attracting more than 120,000 geeked-out fans.

San Diego Comic-Con holds the trademark on "comic-con," with a hyphen, but abandoned its 1995 bid for the rights to "comic con," with a space. After the lawsuit was filed, Salt Lake Comic Con attempted to trademark its own name but was told that the terms "Salt Lake" and "comic con" were too generic.

"To have that kind of validation from the trademark department puts us in a very strong position," Brandenburg said. "We were in strong position before, we believe, but certainly now we're in a stronger one."

A settlement in the case is still possible, he noted.

Meanwhile, there is nothing to stop Salt Lake Comic Con from preparing its third installment, set to grow attendance past San Diego Comic-Con's average of 130,000 guests. Ticket sales for the event, scheduled for Sept. 24-26, are double what organizers saw at this time last year, Brandenburg said.

As they promote the convention, the unruffled Salt Lake Comic Con organizers continue to commit themselves to a number of community efforts, including releasing a playful video this week promoting Utah's Clear the Air initiative and encouraging residents to improve air quality by using public transit, carpooling or walking.

"We feel like, by raising awareness for the promotion for our event, we can use that goodwill and that awareness to encourage people to be heroes in their own neighborhoods and communities," Brandenburg said. "We feel like we're leading the charge on that."

Guests announced so far for September's convention include John Barrowman, "Arrow"; Felicia Day, "The Guild" and "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"; Ian Somerhalder, "Vampire Diaries"; Sean Astin, "Lord of the Rings"; and Scott Wilson, "The Walking Dead."


Twitter: McKenzieRomero