Ninth Circuit Rejects San Diego Comic Con Appeal

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The organizers of a Salt Lake City comic convention suffered another blow in their long-running trademark battle with the organizers of the San Diego Comic-Con.

The Salt Lake event styled itself as “Salt Lake Comic Con.” The owners of the registered trademark “San Diego Comic-Con” sued for infringement. Nearly six years of litigation culminated in a jury verdict in favor of the San Diego plaintiff.

The defendant appealed to the Ninth Circuit on the ground that “Comic Con” had always been used as an abbreviated term for comic conventions. It was therefore “generic ab initio” and never entitled to trademark protection.  The Circuit Court brushed this argument aside. It simply affirmed the trial court’s findings that there were insufficient facts to support an argument that the mark was generic. It also upheld an award of $3.7 million in attorney’s fees to San Diego Comic-Con’s attorneys, saying that the litigation conduct of the defendant’s attorneys met the standard of an “exceptional” case warranting such a remedy.

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