A 'Comic-Con' by Any Other Name (Or, How Not to Commit Trademark Infringement with Your Library Comic Event)

Are you planning a library comic event? Does it happen to be called something like “Gotham City Library Comic-Con?” Awesome! Now, before you start promoting how rad your nerdfest and all the cosplay and creator signings are going to be, there's something kind of important you should be aware of: If you are calling it a "Comic-Con," Comic-Con needs to know. 

San Diego Public Library Comic Con library cards
San Diego Public Library got trademark approval from the San Diego Comic Convention for their limited-edition Comic-Con library cards.

Why? It might come as a surprise to many, but “Comic-Con” is not a common term. “Comic-Con” and its variations, such as “Comic Con,” “ComicCon” and “Comic-Con International,” are registered trademarks of San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC), the nonprofit company behind San Diego Comic Convention — the granddaddy of all comic conventions. This means that a license agreement is required in order to use it as your convention name and on any of your promotional materials and language. 

I discovered this a few years ago when I was very kindly informed by SDCC that our new, limited-edition San Diego Public Library Comic-Con Library Card we were so proud of and so psyched to promote was an infringement of their trademark. Oops.  

Getting permission

It’s not that SDCC didn’t like our idea of an exclusive library card to attract more readers. In fact, they love libraries and want to support us as much as possible. They simply need us to make the formal request to use their name on our promotional stuff.

All I had to do was send them an email with the card design attached requesting to use “Comic-Con” on it. They, in turn, requested that we add the registered trademark logo and some brief verbiage to the card and to make sure to adhere to certain rules that will protect their brand. We signed a license agreement, but in our case there was no license fee.

And just like that, the first officially licensed Comic-Con Library Card was born! Not only was all this quick and painless, but we were now able to promote the commemorative library card as both our own exclusive item AND one licensed by Comic-Con International itself. (You can imagine how much higher on the coolness meter the card got after that!)

How to make your request

So as you plan your library comic event and you decide you want to put “Comic Con,” “ComicCon,” “Comic-Con” or any variation on the mark in its name, remember to first send an email to SDCC and let them know you’ve got a cool, comics-related event coming up and you’d like a license agreement from them. They’ll be happy to get it started for you, and soon you’ll have a shiny new officially licensed Comic-Con title complete with the cool registered trademark logo to show off. 

To request your license agreement to use “Comic-Con” or its variations for your event title and on any promotional materials, including fliers, social media postings, website listings and branded items, send an email to pr@comic-con.org. As long as you aren’t using their name for commercial purposes, there should be no issues with being granted the license.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to necessarily jump through this hoop, you can simply change the name of your event to something other than a “Comic-Con.” But come on, don’t you want to use the cool mark and be able to say your Comic-Con is officially licensed?

Happy Comic-Con planning!