San Diego Comic Convention awarded $3.9 million in fees and costs in trademark case

By Charmaine Little | Apr 30, 2019

SAN DIEGO – Thanks to its case being an “exceptional” one, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California granted in part and denied in part the San Diego Comic Convention’s motion for attorney fees after it prevailed in its trademark case against a production company.

San Diego Comic Convention was awarded $3.9 million in fees by the court.

According to the ruling, a court has the right to award reasonable attorneys’ fees to a winning party of a trademark case only in exceptional conditions.

“Finding that this case is in fact ‘exceptional,’ the court awards SDCC reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs subject to certain deductions,” wrote Judge Anthony J. Battaglia wrote in the April 15 order.

SDCC sued Dan Farr Productions, Daniel Farr and Bryan Brandenburg in 2014 over allegations of federal trademark infringement and false designation of origin over the trademarks for Comic-Con, Comic Con International, Anaheim Comic-Con and San Diego International Comic-Con. The issue came after DFP started to market its own Salt Lake Comic Con in 2013, a very similar event to SDCC’s productions in California. 

A jury awarded SDCC $20,000 in 2017. SDCC then asked for a permanent injunction and $4.9 million in attorneys’ fees as well as other court costs. 

Battaglia had to determine whether the request was reasonable.

According to the order, Battaglia first looked at the hourly rate and stated that based on the experience of the robust legal team and how much each one charged, the SDCC fulfilled its obligation to prove the hourly rate. 

As for the hours spent on the case, Battaglia said some of the tasks weren’t correctly distributed between the paralegal team and the litigation team. 

“…There are certain time entries that have been so heavily redacted that the court cannot assess the reasonableness of the time expended,” he wrote.

Battaglia ultimately lowered SDCC’s fee request by 20 percent for quarter-hour billing and issued a 5 percent reduction for billing inconsistencies and a $3,532.50 reduction for overstaffing. That left SDCC with $3.7 million reward for legal fees and $212,323.56 for expert costs, or $3.9 million in total.

San Diego Comic Convention was represented by attorneys with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Wilson Turner Kosmo.

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