As a business owner, you protect your most precious brands and assets through copyright and trademark. These legal safeguards are part of the success of some of the world’s most well-known products and services. These products can become so well-known that their name could be used interchangeably with other products; for example, you might say Kleenex to mean tissue or Band-Aid to mean bandage. Now, one of the world’s most popular events could suffer from the overuse of its name.
Believe it or not, a brand can lose its trademark and copyright protection because the name or product becomes too generic. When this happens, it can be devastating to a business and will almost always result in litigation, which will require knowledgeable legal representation.
To register and maintain a trademark or copyright, the petitioning person or company must prove to the government that their brand or product is distinguishable and has unique market value in its industry. A company can lose its utility patent protection after 20 years, which why we have generic medication like penicillin and the like.
However, a company can keep its trademarks for as long as it is used in commerce or is defended by its holder, according to the International Trade Administration. However, just because a company can forever keep its trademark, in theory, that doesn’t always happen.
The San Diego Comic-Con could fall as the latest victim to what industry experts call brand “genericide.” The ever-popular comic book, superheroes, and technology event attracts more than 160,000 people annually, according to the organization’s website.
Its popularity has attracted spin-off events in other locations around the world, but the use of the name Comic-Con at other events has not always won the favor of the non-profit organization that puts on the event in San Diego. Now, the organization is engaged in a legal battle to protect the use of its name.
The organization is arguing that the unfettered billing of “Comic-Con” at other events could harm the reputation and attendance of their flagship event in San Diego. A judge appears to be favoring the organization’s need for protection of the name “Comic-Con,” but 80 percent of consumers surveyed in a poll said they believe the name to be generic.
Although Comic-Con focuses on the fantasy of superheroes and science fiction, the threat of losing a trademark can have real-life consequences for an organization.