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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake's homegrown comic and pop culture event has told San Diego Comic-Con organizers that the Utah event will not drop "Comic Con" from its name.
The flagship San Diego Comic-Con International was underway when it sent a cease and desist order to Salt Lake Comic Con on July 26, ordering the fledgling event to drop "Comic Con" from its name, website and all promotional materials.
Salt Lake organizers came out swinging, calling accusations of trademark violation "baseless" and launching a social media campaign that stirred supporters into a frenzy.
Ready for a legal fight
Salt Lake Comic Con founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg were reserved as they started Wednesday's announcement, entering without their usual entourage of costumed fans, applause and music.
They did, however, show up in their geeked-out Salt Lake Comic Con car, a wrapped Audi R8 Spyder.
The two geek conventions have talked and organizers will continue to communicate, but Salt Lake has no intention of backing down, Brandenburg said. A formal lawsuit could be filed, he said.
We did feel that we were singled out, and we wanted to give a heads up to a lot of the comic cons that we have relationships with around the country. Because if they're going to take this action with us, they're going to take action with others.
–Bryan Brandenburg, SLC Comic Con
Salt Lake Comic Con is among dozens of conventions across the country and the world that brand their events as comic cons. San Diego Comic Con holds the trademark on "Comic-Con," with a hyphen, but abandoned its 1995 bid for the moniker "Comic Con," with a space.
"We did feel that we were singled out, and we wanted to give a heads up to a lot of the comic cons that we have relationships with around the country," Brandenburg said. "Because if they're going to take this action with us, they're going to take action with others."
Salt Lake Comic Con is talking about possibly teaming up with other comic cons in the fight, though organizers are not naming any names out of concern that "potential allies" could be targeted.
San Diego's convention, a long-standing institution in the nerd world, regularly draws more than 130,000 guests, features huge stars in TV and movies, and hosts special announcements such as an exclusive first look at next year's "The Avengers: Age of Ultron."
Salt Lake's inaugural comic con was bursting with more than 72,000 attendees, and just eight months later, attendance at its FanX event topped 100,000 delighted geeks. High-profile guests so far have included Marvel mastermind Stan Lee, "Star Trek" captains Patrick Stewart and William Shatner, and "Firefly" and "Castle" star Nathan Fillion.
"Yes, we called ourselves comic con, but so do a lot of other people," Brandenburg said, "so we must have done a few things other than just call ourselves comic con to be so hugely successful."
Gearing up for a second convention
Continuing the trend, the 2014 Salt Lake Comic Con set for Sept. 4-6 could draw as many as 120,000 guests.
"Comic con is about having a great fan experience. It's about having a great time with people and getting to make new friends. We want to keep that Salt Lake Comic Con experience going," said Farr, who assures September's event will continue as planned and no headlining guests have canceled.
In fact, Farr says the upcoming convention looks to exceed the previous two in size and celebrity.
Through it all, Farr reiterated his admiration for the popular and successful San Diego Comic-Con.
In the meantime, Salt Lake Comic Con founders have every intention to continue using the "comic con" title for the upcoming show and will still be driving the car that reportedly drew some of the larger convention's ire.
San Diego organizers last month told Farr not to bring the car onto their turf and threatened legal action if it showed up. Not wanting to cause a problem, Farr and Brandenburg stopped the car en route but continued to the convention when the cease and desist letter showed up anyway.
The growing roster of celebrity guests announced so far includes: Simon Helberg, "The Big Bang Theory"; Manu Bennett, "The Hobbit"; Dean O'Gorman, "The Hobbit"; Jon Heder, "Napoleon Dynamite"; Stephen Amell, "Arrow"; Ernie Hudson, "Ghostbusters"; Cary Elwes, "The Princess Bride"; Bruce Campbell, "Army of Darkness"; John Barrowman, "Doctor Who" and "Torchwood"; Sam Witwer, "Being Human"; Christopher Lloyd, "Back to the Future"; Eliza Dushku, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"; Kevin Sorbo, "Hercules"; Lou Ferrigno, "The Incredible Hulk"; Erin Gray, "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century"; Giancarlo Esposito, "Revolution"; and Michael Rosenbaum, "Smallville."