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As San Diego Comic-Con's name dispute with Salt Lake Comic Con approaches a federal trial, the bigger, older pop-culture convention is expanding its litigation against the smaller, burgeoning one.
San Diego sued Salt Lake last year in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California for trademark infringement, alleging that the name of Salt Lake City's event was too similar.
Shortly after negotiations between the two conventions broke down last month, the Salt Lake convention took a victory lap when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a trademark on its name.
But San Diego's legal team shot back that the patent office's decision doesn't change anything San Diego had no say in that process and that they want to cancel that trademark with administrative litigation, said San Diego's lead attorney Peter Hahn. They also want to block Salt Lake from a logo trademark.
On Friday afternoon, the conventions' dispute finally got a schedule though it's a long way off. Magistrate Judge Jan Adler set a pretrial conference for Oct. 3, 2016, when a different judge will decide on a trial date.
"This case has been dragging on a bit," Hahn said Friday. Adler wanted to move the suit along, as did San Diego, Hahn added.
Technically, San Diego has the hyphenated "Comic-Con" trademarked, not "Comic Con." However, its legal team has argued that the similarity of "Comic Con" in Salt Lake's name, without the hyphen, has confused people into thinking the event is somehow associated with San Diego's convention.
As Salt Lake's organizers see it, this legal battle isn't just between them and the flagship convention; it's a threat to the dozens of other comic book conventions around the world that also use "comic con" in their names. Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder and chief marketing officer Bryan Brandenburg previously asserted that if San Diego wins this case, the precedent will allow it to do this to other organizations.
And co-founder Dan Farr has said that while his convention has a second, strong brand name in the form of its sister event, FanX to fall back on in lieu of using "comic con," most other organizations don't.
In court documents, San Diego has suggested Salt Lake use the FanX name for both events.
Salt Lake and San Diego negotiated for months and even reportedly neared a settlement, with Brandenburg saying they hoped to start a "bromance" with the larger convention last January. But those talks broke down earlier this summer. Brandenburg said they were unwilling to give San Diego what it wanted.
A settlement could still be reached before the trial. Adler wants both conventions to submit their final offers by Aug. 11, 2016.
In the meantime, Salt Lake is proceeding with Salt Lake Comic Con 2015 with the name intact. In its third year, the event is slated for Sept. 24-26 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.