In the wake of San Diego Comic-Con winning its years-long lawsuit against Salt Lake Comicon over its trademark on the term “comic-con”, much of the media coverage was somewhat apocalyptic as to what the consequences would be for cons across the country. Despite the payout for winning the suit being a paltry $ 20k, more focus was put on just how other cons would react. The early returns are mixed, with some proactively undergoing name-changes to avoid litigation and others staying stalwart. The point we have made all along is that this win for SDCC was not some ultimate final act on the matter.
And, as many predicted, it appears that win wasn’t even the final act with regards to its SLCC foe, as the Utah-based con has filed for a new trial.
The Salt Lake lawyers filed the paperwork on Tuesday in response to last month’s eight-day trial in U.S. District Court, during which jurors decided that the California convention’s trademarks are valid. The jury found that the infringement was not willful and awarded $ 20,000 in damages to the San Diego Comic-Con, which had sought $ 12 million.
The Salt Lake lawyers say evidence was wrongly excluded during trial and improper jury instructions undercut the evidence.
It will be very interesting to see where this goes, because many of us that observed the goings on of the initial trial were surprised at its outcome. From a trademark perspective, the arguments for genericide raised by SLCC seemed quite obvious. The evidence of genericide is present in every bit of follow up coverage one sees dealing with how many other shows with some version of “comic con” in their names are either changing those names or standing firm and continuing to use them. The phrase is everywhere in the industry, which only makes sense, given that the phrase is essentially nothing more than a description of the type of show being conducted. Part of the issue raised in the filing for a new trial appears to be how much the jury was allowed to hear about other cons using the term nationwide.
Part of the excluded evidence was testimony about the use of “comic con” by third-party competitors, which could make the term generic, the motion says. In addition, according to the motion, the trial judge gave a defective instruction that said competitive use is inadequate to establish genericness.
It’s easy to see how such misguided instructions and barring of relevant evidence would give rise to such an erroneous verdict. Regardless, it seems likely that there will be more to come in round two of the wrath of cons.
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