SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake's resident geek and pop culture convention faces a pivotal week in its legal battle over the right to call itself a "comic con."
Salt Lake Comic Con has been squaring off in court against the longstanding San Diego Comic-Con since the older organization filed a trademark violation lawsuit in August 2014 over the then-fledgling event's name.
Co-founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg will each face a full day of deposition Tuesday and Wednesday, leading up to a final settlement conference before a federal judge in San Diego on Thursday. Following that conference, the judge will decide whether the case will continue to advance toward a trial scheduled in October.
While the organizers staunchly maintain they are in the right, Brandenburg says that after investing approximately $1 million in their defense, they are ready to focus exclusively on their event.
"I would just as soon use those creative juices to really level up (the event)," Brandenburg said. "I think we've done a great job putting on great events over the past two years in spite of this thing going on, but you know, just imagine what we could do if it wasn't."
Settlement talks have been ongoing during that time, Brandenburg said, but neither side has been willing to bend to the other's terms.
Brandenburg emphasized that despite the prolonged litigation, he and Farr hold no ill will toward San Diego Comic-Con but continue to admire the iconic event.
He speculated that the lawsuit represents a kind of "Custer's last stand" for San Diego Comic-Con, which has dabbled for years in taking action about other events using the name "comic con," ultimately latching onto the Salt Lake event after Brandenburg and Farr drove their branded Audi to the competing event in July 2014.
In the lawsuit, the San Diego convention claims legal ownership over the term "comic con" in its various forms, though similar events around the country — including the recently renamed "Stan Lee's Los Angeles Comic Con" — have used the name for years.
Since the legal duel began, Brandenburg has vocally defended the convention's name, saying "comic con" has long been accepted as a generic term and that the challenge threatens dozens of events, not just his own.
San Diego Comic-Con holds the trademark on "comic-con," with a hyphen, but abandoned its 1995 bid for the rights to "comic con," with a space. Salt Lake Comic Con was awarded a trademark for its own name in July, which organizers said elevated their case.
Salt Lake Comic Con consistently attracts more than 120,000 attendees to its headline event.