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December 1, 2017

Anime Boston Parent Sues Boston Anime Fest Parent Over Trademark

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Written by: Rodney Brown
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On Tuesday, Nov. 28, the New England Anime Society Inc. filed a trademark infringement suit against Fantastic Gatherings Inc. and Image Meet and Greet Entertainment LLC over the use of the term “Boston Anime.”

Boston Anime Fest is a new sub-event held concurrently with the Boston SouthCoast Comic Con & Collectible Extravaganza, formerly know as Pop Culture Expo and then Northeast Comic Con. The next iteration of the semi-annual event is coming right up on Dec. 9-10, 2018 at the Hanover Mall in Hanover, Mass.

The New England Anime Society has been operating the event Anime Boston in downtown Boston since both were founded in 2001, and registered the term “Anime Boston” as a federal trademark in 2014, according to the filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The crux of the trademark infringement claim is that, according to the filing (a PDF link from the site CourtHouseNews.com):

“Anime Boston” and “Boston Anime” or “Boston Anime Fest” are similar names, using identical words simply in a different order.

NEAS calls the name Boston Anime Fest a “confusingly similar mark” in the filing. It also states that Fantastic Gatherings officials Mary Dumas, president, and Pamela Larson, director, are familiar with Anime Boston operations since they both have been volunteers at the event in the past.

On Nov. 6, NEAS sent a cease and desist letter to the two other organizations, the filing states. NEAS received a response email from Image Meet and Greet founder Gary Sohmers, stating in part that:

[W]e humbly disagree with your interpretation and use of the terms. In the case of the terms, both “Boston” and “Anime,” fall into fair use as generic when used together in either order.

The suit seek an injunction to stop and prevent further use of the name Boston Anime Fest by the defendants. It also seeks to get ownership of the URL www.bostonanimefest.com, which redirects to www.necomiccon.net, the original and current URL for the renamed Boston SouthCoast Comic Con. Unspecified financial damages are also requested.

Gary Sohmers said in an email to the Boston Business Journal:

“Since we are not as financially secure as the 501(c)3 non-profit that generates over $1 million per once annual event (according to their tax filing), I probably cannot afford the expensive defense needed for such a malicious action on short notice, which again allows money to rule the court.” 

NEAS is being represented by the law firm Ruberto, Israel & Weiner, P.C.

A post on the Boston SouthCoast Comic Con & Collectible Extravaganza – a Pop Culture Expo Facebook page last night stated:

I will be in Federal Court in Boston Friday at 10 am after being served papers at 4 pm today and hope the Judge is a rational and reasonable human being.

The identity of the poster is listed simply as the Boston SouthCoast Comic Con Facebook page itself. It is likely that the poster is Gary Sohmers.

We reached out to Sohmers; Mary Dumas and Pamela Larson of Fantastic Gatherings; and NEAS president Chris O’Connel and Anime Boston Press Liaison Jeremy Hurst for comment. Sohmers is the only one to respond so far. In an email sent after the 10 a.m. court appearance, he said that “after I submitted defense documents the Judge Burroughs denied their Temporary Restraining Order and postponed other decisions on infringement until next week when Judge Sorokin returns.”

Among the defense arguments Sohmers made is continued existence of various Facebook groups that use the exact term “Anime Boston” in their titles. Those groups are not affiliated with Anime Boston the convention or NEAS at all, Sohmers pointed out, and have not been pursued for a name change.

 



About the Author

Rodney Brown





 
 

 
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