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For nearly a year, a legal dispute over the "Comic Con" brand between Salt Lake City and San Diego convention organizers has been in limbo as the two sides remained short of an out-of-federal court settlement.
As of Friday, the two pop-culture events remained at odds, though a recent move by none other than comic book icon Stan Lee may yet, albeit unintentionally, break the impasse.
On Tuesday, the Marvel comics creator announced he was changing the name of his own Oct. 28-30 "Comickaze Expo" event in Los Angeles to "Stan Lee's Los Angeles Comic Con."
Is there now a third player in the long-running battle for rights to the "Comic Con" moniker? Possibly, says Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Bryan Brandenburg.
"We feel that this is tremendous validation in our ongoing legal issue with San Diego Comic-Con International and are excited that somebody as important to the comic book industry as Stan Lee is supporting us," Brandenburg stated Friday.
"We respect San Diego Comic-Con International and their contribution to the industry," he added. "Our hope is that this will help lead to an amicable resolution that ultimately benefits Comic Con fans around the world and helps ensure that they get to participate in Comic Con events wherever and whenever they want."
Brandenburg characterized Lee's renaming of his convention as additional proof that use of the "Comic Con" term is, as he and other Salt Lake Comic Con organizers contend, clearly generic and not a trademark infringement.
Nonetheless, that is what San Diego Comic-Con which has trademarked the hyphenated "Comic-Con" claimed in its 2014 complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Efforts to reach San Diego Comic-Con officials and attorneys for comment on the Lee announcement, and possible repercussions for their litigation, were not immediately successful.
Last January, at the request of attorneys for both Salt Lake and San Diego organizers, a federal magistrate agreed to extend a procedural deadline to allow the parties time to negotiate a possible settlement.
Indeed, Brandenburg on Friday confirmed that Salt Lake Comic Con had negotiated a settlement terms undisclosed but the deal expired without approval on its Sept. 15 deadline.
In the five weeks since, there has been no movement in the case. "Then this news with Lee came out, which we see as pretty significant," he added.
With Lee now seemingly in the fray, along with numerous other comic con events nationwide, "the landscape is getting a lot worse for San Diego" organizers and their claim to the term, Brandenburg said.
If no settlement develops soon, he added, it is likely Salt Lake Comic Con will seek a trial date.