When you hear the phrase “Comic-Con” do you immediately think about the city of San Diego or just a generic comic book convention taking place in any city in America?
That was basically the question at the heart of a court battle between the San Diego Comic-Con and the Salt Lake Comic-Con.
A jury sided with San Diego Comic-Con rather than the rival pop-culture convention in Utah over rights to use the phrase "comic con."
The panel decided that Salt Lake Comic Con used the trademarked phrase without permission, though they didn't do so willfully. The panel awarded the California event $20,000, far less than the $12 million they'd sought.
Utah co-founder Dan Farr told Salt Lake City TV station KUTV they plan to appeal.
Lawyers for the San Diego convention argued during the trial that the upstart event in Salt Lake stole their name to benefit from their reputation built over years of hard work.
"This case is about stealing, taking something that is not yours, something you have no right to. It's about right, and it's about wrong," Callie Bjurstrom, an attorney for San Diego Comic-Con International, said during closing arguments.
The event that's considered the flagship of the popular convention circuit filed a trademark violation lawsuit against the rapidly growing Salt Lake convention in 2014. Their request for $12 million in damages included a $9 million advertising campaign to clear up any confusion.
Salt Lake, though, maintains the phrase is a generic shortened form of "comic book convention" and used by 140 events around the country.
Salt Lake organizers saw dozens of unaffiliated events using the term and genuinely thought it was usable when they named their event in 2013, co-founder Bryan Brandenburg testified.
The Utah convention hasn't hurt the thriving San Diego brand, and less than 1 percent of San Diego Comic-Con attendees have been confused about whether the two events are affiliated, Salt Lake Comic Con attorney Michael Katz argued.
"From the standpoint of people out there, comic con is generic," he said.
Salt Lake Comic Con has made nearly $3 million since it started in 2013.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.