Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

“Space City” trademark lawsuit

Fascinating.

Houston’s convention bureau is suing the operators of a popular local convention over the use of “Space City” in its name, claiming it infringes on a 12-year-old trademark.

The convention in question, Space City Comic Con, also happens to compete with a similar event that is half-owned by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau itself. The bureau acquired a 50 percent stake in the more established Comicpalooza last September, spokesman A.J. Mistretta said.

Both events bring in television and film stars for appearances that attract thousands of autograph buyers. Fans come dressed as their favorite characters from science fiction, anime and super-hero fantasies to browse exhibits, purchase items from vendors and play video and table-top games. The fests charge comparable admission fees.

The convention bureau, which declined to discuss the case for this article, may believe it’s losing money if people are confused over which show is sponsored by the economic development arm of Houston, said Betsy Gelb, professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. She agreed that if it managed to trademark “Space City,” it has every reason to defend it in court.

But, she added, “Does it help your image to do this?”

[…]

The convention bureau claims in its lawsuit in federal court in Houston that through its promotional efforts, “Space City” has become widely known in the United States and that Space City Comic Con is causing “irreparable harm” by using the trademarked name.

The bureau is seeking a court order to force the show to stop using “Space City.” The lawsuit also would require the company to give up any profits earned from using the trademark and stop competing unfairly against the bureau.

Gotta admit, in almost 30 years of living in Houston, I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it as “Space City”. Speaking as a longtime Rockets fan, on those occasions when I feel the need to attach a nickname to Houston, “Clutch City” is by far the most likely moniker to come to mind, however outdated that may be by now. “Bayou City” is a distant second. I get “Space City”, of course, and if the GHCVB thinks that has value and specific meaning, I won’t argue. It’s just not something that naturally occurs to me. My guess is that in the end the Space City Comic Con will rebrand itself and that will be the end of this. I don’t know that that will happen in time for this year’s Con, which as always happens over the Memorial Day weekend and for which marketing is underway. The Space City folks say on their Facebook page that they have not been contacted for comment about this, despite what the Chron story says, and they encourage their fans to contact the GHCVB to tell them what they think about this. So it could get quite contentious, but in the end I do think some kind of settlement will be reached. Taking this to a courthouse won’t be good for anyone but the lawyers.

Related Posts:

3 Comments

  1. souperman says:

    I am, of course, not a lawyer (and no association with either group), but I would think an argument could be made that it’s a generic term. HPD badges included “Space City, USA” for much longer than 12 years (to the point that until I looked it up just now, I thought they still did). I certainly don’t associate the term with the GHCVB.

  2. Joel says:

    maybe 30 years isn’t long enough. i first moved to houston a mere 7 years before that, and the moniker “space city” was/is quite familiar to me.

    it is, after all, the source for both the astros and rockets nicknames.

    possibly the reference dropped off exponentially as time elapsed after the moonwalk, so that by 1986 it had been overcome by other nicknames.

  3. Bill Shirley says:

    If the convention were being held in Detroit, or any “other place”, I’d be on board. But I don’t think the Convention Bureau should be in the business of suing locals.