Court Orders Former Salt Lake City Comic Con to Pay Almost $4 Million to San Diego Comic-Con

Bleeding Cool covered at length the courtroom drama between Salt Lake City Comic Con and San Diego Comic-Con over the use of the Comic Con trademark, and how the jury found in favour of San Diego Comic-Con — but only awarded them $20,000.

However, there were a number of post-verdict motions filed by both parties following the verdict, which saw a ruling yesterday.

This included a motion against organisers of Salt Lake City Comic Con, Dan Farr, Dan Farr Productions and Bryan Brandenburg in favour of San Diego Comic-Con of almost $4 million. Costs would not have been so high if the case had not been considered an exceptional one, and much of that decision seems to have been related to court criticism of their behaviour throughout the trial, necessitating San Diego Comic-Con to spend more money on attorney fees than they would have otherwise.

The full figure was $3,962,486.84, as well as the initial $20,000 damages, just shy of $4 million.

Criticism from the court to the SLCC boys included “refusing to cease and desist and turning to the media to litigate a trademark infringement case in the court of ‘public opinion’ is objectively irrational”, that they repeatedly “misstated the law”, that their “referencing a party’s wealth to play off the bias of the jury is clear misconduct”. That they broke the “Golden Rule” argument, “asking the jury to put itself in the position of the party, is improper”, their “groundless legal reasoning”, that their “efforts to formulate legal arguments based on factually and legally irrelevant case law also help bolster this Court’s conclusion that the instant matter is not a middle-of the-road trademark case”, and that “ultimately, resembling a broken record, DFP has repetitively restated and rehashed several contentions that they were unable to advance successfully prior to trial. This type of cyclical motion practice is objectively unreasonable and has justified attorneys’ fees under the Lanham Act.”

The court concluded that “at every opportunity, DFP has repeated, re-argued, and recycled arguments already briefed by both parties and analyzed and ruled on by the Court. This type of wasteful litigation tactic forced SDCC to expend extra, unnecessary legal fees and drove this Court to squander already limited judicial resources.”

The language became more colourful, regarding the court arguments over the definition of the word ‘Con’. “Astonishingly, ignoring the case law provided to them, DFP’s motion for new trial again points to the same Oxford dictionary definition. As a result, this argument has been recycled by DFP twice in complete disregard of this Court’s previous rulings and Ninth Circuit precedent.”

And their use of social media seems to have cost them, saying “finally, the most prominent example of DFP’s disregard for this Court’s rules and procedures occurred on June 23, 2017, when DFP filed a motion for leave to amend their pleading that expressly referenced testimony that had been designated ‘Confidential— Attorneys’ Eyes Only’ by SDCC and the Protective Order in this case… In spite of the highly confidential information contained in the document, Defendant Bryan Brandenburg also disseminated the information on the Internet through his social media accounts and SLCC’s Twitter Page.”

Additionally, DFP, Dan and Bryan have a permanent injunction from ever using the words Comic-Con or anything like it, aside from in a purely historical and archival fashion for previous shows, but not in a commercial fashion. And they can’t say they were formerly known as Salt Lake Comic-Con or use the previous URL, even to forward elsewhere.

I get the feeling that this case may well be taught in legal classrooms for years to come…

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About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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