Deseret News: Gag order on Salt Lake Comic Con violated First Amendment

(Deseret News) SALT LAKE CITY —  A federal court of appeals has lifted a gag order that barred the founders of Salt Lake Comic Con from discussing its ongoing trademark battle with San Diego Comic-Con.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the order barring the founders of the Salt Lake event from discussing their ongoing trademark lawsuit, sharing public documents and posting about the case on personal social media pages violated the First Amendment.

“Unlike other cases involving attorneys or the press, grisly crimes or national security, the district court’s orders silence one side of a vigorously litigated, run-of-the-mill civil trademark proceeding,” the judicial panel wrote in its opinion Thursday.

The district court “clearly erred” in restricting the free speech rights of Salt Lake Comic Con co-founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, quoting a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision that emphasized “the loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury,” according to the ruling.

San Diego Comic-Con, the internationally known comic and pop culture convention, is suing Farr and Brandenburg, claiming that by calling their event a comic con, the organizers are violating trademark laws, creating confusion and attempting to profit from the California convention’s success.

Salt Lake Comic Con argues the term has been generally and generically accepted to describe conventions featuring comic books and associated media for decades. Since the lawsuit was filed, Brandenburg has vocally defended the convention’s name and warned that the challenge threatens dozens of events, not just Salt Lake Comic Con (…)


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