Comics Lowdown: Comic-Con International wins trademark suit

‘Comic con’ belongs to Comic-Con! Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix! Plus Connor Willumson, behind the scenes on comiXology’s Guided View, recent personnel changes and more!

Legal: Comic-Con International won its trademark suit against Salt Lake Comic Con on Friday, when a jury determined that “comic con” is a trademark, and that Salt Lake Comic Con’s use of it was likely to confuse the public. However, the jury did not grant CCI the $12 million in damages that was requested in the lawsuit; stating they did not believe the infringement was intentional, they awarded CCI $20,000 for advertising to clear up any confusion.

Rob Salkowitz lays out the history of the case and the possible implications at Forbes, pointing out that some conventions already pay CCI a licensing fee for the use of the term. He also noted that the organizers of SLCC, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, tried to paint themselves as the Davids to CCI’s Goliath and ran a crowdfunding campaign to pay for their legal fees—but they also gave themselves $225,000 in bonuses. At the trial, however, CCI produced a survey that showed more than 70 percent of respondents identified the term “comic con” with the San Diego event.

In a statement released later that day, CCI reiterated that the trademark was theirs and that they had worked for almost 50 years to build that brand. “From the beginning all that we asked of the defendants was to stop using our Comic-Con trademarks,” the statement said. “Today we obtained a verdict that will allow us to achieve this. For that we are grateful.”

Glen Hauman of ComicMix, drawn in a non-trademarkable style by Ty Templeton
Legal: Meanwhile, in another case, a judge has ruled that a particular style of art cannot be trademarked. The case is Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix, and it stems from a book published by ComicMix, titled Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! The ComicMix book is sort of a Dr. Seuss/Star Trek mashup, and the Seuss folks were quick to file suit. While the case is ongoing, on Thursday the judge denied an order to dismiss but also narrowed the scope of the suit, saying,

Plaintiff cited no authority to support its assertion that its general “style” is a protectable trademark. Plaintiff only argues that the book can be subject to both trademark and copyright protection and that distinctive characters can qualify as trademarks. Plaintiff claims the Ninth Circuit has recognized Plaintiff owns trademark rights to “the character illustration of the Cat [in the Hat’s] ‘stove-pipe hat’.” But the illustration of the Cat’s hat is different than the general “illustration style” and non-specific “characters and backgrounds found throughout” Plaintiff’s books, in which Plaintiff asserts trademark rights now. And Plaintiff does not allege trademark rights in any specific character or background image in [Oh, The Places You’ll] Go! The Court is not holding illustrations of specific characters within Go! are precluded from trademark protection, but at this stage of the proceedings and based on the information in front of the Court, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claimed general “illustration style” is not protectable.

Resist—and Win! The nonfiction comics site Cartoon Movement has just announced The Art of Resistance, an international cartoon competition and exhibition that is open to everyone, pros and amateurs alike. The top prize is €1,000, a plaque, and a night’s stay in Middelburg, the Netherlands, for the opening of the exhibition (travel not included). Selected other entries will also be included in the exhibit. The deadline is February 23.

Interviews and Profiles

Creator on Creator: Dash Shaw interviews Connor Willumson about his new graphic novel, Anti-Gone.

Reviews, Roundups, and Commentary

Books About Comics: New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis reviews two recent books about comics: Hilary Chute’s Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere and Reed Tucker’s Slugfest: Inside the Epic 50-Year Battle Between Marvel and DC. Also at the NYT, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau reviews Cartoon County, Cullen Murphy’s memoir of growing up in the cartoonist-heavy community of Fairfield County, Connecticut; Murphy’s father, Jack Murphy, was the artist for Prince Valiant.

Music and Comics: John Freeman points us to Various Artists, a website featuring comics about music and musicians.

Best of the Year: Rob Salkowitz (him again!) picks his top 10 graphic novels of 2017 at Forbes.

Best of the Year: The Paste Comics Crew post their list of the 25 best comics of the year.

Antidote for the Haters: At the Nerdy Book Club, Amy Estersohn has compiled a list of 10 graphic novels for people who think they hate graphic novels.

The Biz

Step by Step: Tia Vasiliou, an editor at comiXology, explains how comics are broken down for their panel-by-panel Guided View format. (The panels used in the how-to are from Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s Descender #1.)

Retailing: Phil Boyce looks at the way comics are displayed on some newsstands in Northern Ireland. Interesting piece with lots of photos.

Cash Infusion: Liquid Comics has raised $5 million from existing and new investors to expand Graphic India brand, including more film and television properties and increased emphasis on its branded digital comics app.

Comings and Goings, Part I: Meg Lemke is the new graphic novel reviews editor for Publishers Weekly, taking over from Heidi Macdonald, who left because she is now doing The Beat full time. Meg is the editor of Mutha magazine, chair of the Brooklyn Book Festival comics and graphic novel programming committee, and guest editor of Illustrated PEN, the graphic narratives publication of PEN America, where she is also a curator for the PEN World Voices Festival. As Heidi says, “Meg is a powerhouse who knows the comics industry at all levels, so I know she’ll do a fantastic job with this.” Seconded!

Comings and Goings, Part II: Mel Caylo has been laid off from his longtime gig as Marketing Manager for BOOM! Studios (five years) and, before the merger, Archaia (four years).

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