In a surprising turn of events, a new conflict has popped up in the increasingly competitive world of North American pop culture conventions as Hobby Star Marketing – operators of the Toronto Fan Expo convention – have filed an injunction against Zuffa LLC – the operators of the Ultimate Fighting Championship league – and convention company Reed Exhibitions over the name of this upcoming weekend's "UFC Fan Expo" show in Toronto.
In the federal court statement obtained by CBR News, Hobby Star has filed for trade-mark infringement on the name "Fan Expo" as well as the slogan "The Ultimate Fan Experience" and the web domain www.ufcfanexpo.com. The papers were filed in a Toronto federal court and make no mention of previous UFC events labeled as "Fan Expos" such as a London, England event last summer, nor do they mention anything about the company's potential plans for a Fan Expo in Las Vegas this summer. This is likely because Hobby Star only have the "Fan Expo" trademark registered within Canada.
Zuffa, as legal owners of all names and trade-marks associated with the UFC, are listed as the primary defendant while Reed takes a secondary role in the brief as the organizer of the event, which is set to kick off this Friday at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto.
The document reveals that Hobby Star seeks an injunction against promoting or selling anything involving the mark and slogan as well as an order to "deliver up or destroy upon oath all clothing, goods labels, packages, advertising materials, signage, printed matter, including all plats, moulds, matrices, and other material for producing or printing such items and any other matter or materials in print or electric form" that fall under the offending names. Additionally, in its case Hobby Star cites the fact that a Reed employee named John McGeary was formerly associated with Fan Expo Canada in some capacity and therefore had knowledge of the trade-mark's use in Canada.
This case marks the latest wrinkle in the overriding back-and-forth actions between convention organizers that have popped up over the last several years. While Reed has publicly jostled with the Wizard World series of shows over dates, locations and treatment of staff over the past two years, Hobby Star is also known as a shrewd player when it comes to defending its brand. From 2004 to around 2007, the Toronto Fan Expo made the local comics press thanks to a hard-lined booking feud with the smaller local show known as the Paradise Comicon. Those grudges seem to have receded in recent years as Wizard World bought up Paradise and rebranded it the Toronto Comicon (also held in the Direct Energy Centre).
CBR News received a "no comment" from a representative at Reed Exhibitions, and any further info on Hobby Star's legal maneuver may have to wait until the courts decide. However, with the planned UFC Fan Expo only three days away, the track Zuffa and Reed take in how they'll label the show at its location should be noted by attendees and press.
In addition, Hobby Star's move may raise questions across pop culture conventions as to what lengths shows will go to in order to protect their identity. Many speculated in recent years that Comic-Con International in San Diego may take action against Wizard World or any number of shows for using similar names and branding to the venerable West Coast event. However, as CBR legal expert Brian Cronin explained, "'Comic Con' has been used for so long that it is likely a generic term by now and not eligible for trademark protection. Many 'Comic Conventions' (and the nickname 'Comic Con') existed before San Diego started using the term. More importantly, San Diego Comic-Con has allowed other conventions to use the name for decades without taking action, so they have, in effect, ceded their claim to the name, while 'Fan Expo' is still a unique term within Canada and Hobby Star is not taking any chances of that changing."
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on this story as it becomes available.