Legal Battle: Court Orders Salt Lake Event To Pay Almost $4 Million To San Diego Comic Con

With the legal battle between the San Diego Comic-Con and the Salt Lake event having dragged on for almost 4 years and nearly 500 court filings, it seems like we are finally nearing a conclusion. If the latest judgement by the court is taken as a signal, the final judgement can be guessed by anyone with any knowledge of Property Rights. The Salt Lake event was renamed FanX Salt Lake.

In an unusual move, the court this week ruled that Dan Farr Productions(DFP), the group which organised the Salt Lake event, will have to pay San Diego Comic Con’s(SDCC) attorney fees and costs.

The total amount to be paid by DFP to SDCC is $3,962,486.84.7. This award includes $3,767,921.06 in attorneys’ fees and $212,323.56 in expert costs.

Here are some of the important bits to tell you what exactly was the court’s ruling-

“In sum, litigation brought in bad faith or with objectively baseless claims may be considered exceptional, as may litigation demonstrating inequitable conduct or willful infringement. Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517, 525 n.12 (1994); see also Octane Fitness, 134 S. Ct. at 1757 (“[A] case presenting either subjective bad faith or exceptionally meritless claims may sufficiently set itself apart from mine-run cases to warrant a fee award.”). Similarly, courts “have awarded attorneys’ fees . . . where a party advances arguments that are particularly weak and lack support in the record or seek only to re- litigate issues the court has already decided.”

“Here, the jury found that DFP infringed on all three of SDCC’s trademarks, yet also found that DFP did not willfully infringe the marks. (See generally Doc. No. 395.) Thus, under the original definition of “exceptional,” SDCC’s request for attorneys’ fees would have been difficult to advance successfully. See Gracie v. Gracie, 217 F.3d 1060, 1068 (9th Cir. 2000) (“Here the jury explicitly found that [the defendant] engaged in ‘willful’ infringement…The district court’s decision to make a fee award to [the plaintiff] thus flows quite naturally from the jury’s finding of willful infringement . . .”). However, after SunEarth, examining the totality of the circumstances, the Court finds that this case is not a dime a dozen. Instead, it is a trademark infringement lawsuit that stands out from others based on the unreasonable manner it was litigated and thus an award of attorneys’ fees and costs to SDCC is justified. ”

The court judgement goes on to clearly state that they have determined the infringement in this case as different from other usual infringement cases.

Evidently, the motions that were filed by DFP were more than 40 pages long and 3 in number even though local rules are pretty clear that filed motions should be in 1 brief not more than 25 pages. Their arguments were termed ‘nonsensical’

“The Court highlights three incidents that occurred prior to trial. First, in contravention to this Court’s Local Rules, DFP filed two summary judgment motions that totaled over forty pages in length. (Doc. Nos. 216, 218, 244, 245.) The local rules clearly explicate that when filing a motion, all the arguments should be contained in one brief, not exceeding a total of twenty-five (25) pages. CivLR 7.1.h.”

“The Court has exhaustively and carefully considered the totality of the circumstances in this case. Having done so, the Court finds that this case stands out when compared to run of the mill trademark infringement cases. Accordingly, in its discretion,
finding this case “exceptional” pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a), SDCC as the prevailing party is awarded attorneys’ fees and costs subject to the deductions listed above.
The Clerk of Court must enter judgment for SDCC and against DFP, and each of them, in this amount, as well as the $20,000 awarded by the jury, in this case. The Clerk of Court is also directed to issue the permanent injunction. As no issues remain, the Clerk is instructed to CLOSE the docket of this case. Accordingly, SDCC’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.”

To put all this in the simplest of language, the court was irritated by the fact that DFP was advancing the same argument over and over again even though it kept getting dismissed and they were fined by the court for it.

The copy of the order has been attached for law geeks and interested people to go through if they want. Do tell us if we missed something important if you find something.

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