There is one San Diego Comic-Con.  One.

It happens in San Diego,

And it happens in July.

The rest of the time, news of Comic-Con does not relate to the definitive comic book/pop culture convention, SDCC.

That news is about convention organizers building off the fame of SDCC in the promotion of their own events in other cities, which they also call (Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas) Comic-Con, ComicCon, Comicon … etc.

If there is one definitive Comic-Con, why are there so many others with similar names?  You wouldn’t expect more than one CES or Siggraph.

Turns out CCI, the presenter of Comic-Con, WonderCon, and APE, does have a trademark on “Comic-Con,” but has been relatively quiet about the infringements occurring not only in the U.S. but also in South Africa and London.

Some events declare that they are not related to CCI or SDCC in their logo and/or press materials; some do not.

As noted above, some delete the hyphen; some merge the adjoining “C”s; some don’t change a thing except the city’s name.

Perhaps CCI is reluctant to bring amped-up lawyers into geek culture — although Comic Book Law School is a fixture at SDCC, with copyright a frequent topic.  SDCC sells out every year.  This year it took but 90 minutes, so badge sales aren’t a worry. And I can’t imagine an exhibitor successfully leveraging the fact that there are so many other comic-cons that they can easily go to as a way to negotiate a lower booth fee.  I’d assume CCI would respond, “The next exhibitor on the waiting list will thank you.”

I’d imagine CCI would raise their rates and there’d be little to no exodus.  Whether trademarked or not, hyphenated or not, there is no Comic-Con other than The Comic-Con in San Diego.  The sheer power of SDCC extends over any manipulation of spelling and punctuation.

So does CCI have a need to enforce their trademark?

It sure would help in twitter searching.

In my opinion, it’s fans who are losing out because of this rampant capitalization on CCI’s good will.  Expecting to attend an event the magnitude of SDCC, attendees at knock-off conventions might be off-put by a less-than-stellar experience.  As much as another convention may “attempt” to distinguish oneself from SDCC, there’s no way to excise the incorrect perception of a connection  to SDCC.

It’s a mental link, Con-scious or not.

I have a hard time explaining the difference between WonderCon and SDCC to my Disney/ABC collaborators.  Just mentioning the installations, the 125,000 attendance cap, the outdoor exhibitors and ancillary events, and the adjoining hotel programming does not suffice.  I had to compare it to something they knew: It’s as if Disneyland’s acreage were compacted and plopped down onto downtown San Diego and then pumped with 50 million cc’s of adrenaline.

There is nothing else like it anywhere.

In a similar vein: E3, that mecca for the gaming industry, is now contending with a boy band using the same name.



–Ken Choy

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