BOSTON (CN) – The organizers behind the annual Anime Boston convention have laid down the gauntlet for Japanese pop culture appreciation in the Bay State by suing the organizers of a competing event.
The New England Anime Society filed suit in the District of Massachusetts federal court Tuesday, alleging that a rival organization, Fantastic Gatherings, was infringing on its trademark for Anime Boston.
According to NEAS, not only is the upstart convention cashing in on the brand that it built, but Fantastic Gatherings is also cyber squatting by having registered the domain BostonAnimeFest.com.
“Defendants registered this domain name with a bad-faith intent to profit from using the domain name which is confusingly similar to NEAS’s distinctive Anime Boston Mark,” the 15-page complaint states.
The New England Anime Society was formed in 2001, and since then has operated annual conventions that draw die-hard fans of Japanese animation from across the region. Its most recent three-day convention in the spring of 2017 attracted over 25,000 attendees.
This year, Fantastic Gatherings announced that it would run a Boston Anime Fest in Hanover, outside of Boston, in conjunction with its annual comic book and sci-fi convention.
The New England Anime Society claims that its competitor is essentially copying a local brand that it had already established.
According to the complaint, “Defendants are promoting identical services, using an indistinguishable mark, in the same geographic area, and serving the same consumers as NEAS. ‘Anime Boston’ and ‘Boston Anime’ or ‘Boston Anime Fest’ are similar names, using identical words simply in a different order.”
Although the generic nature of the terms “Boston” and “anime” may seem to protect the newcomers from such trademark disputes, The New England Anime Society secured a trademark on the name of their annual convention in 2014.
Although the organizers behind the Boston Anime Fest did not respond to an emailed request for comment, court records include a November 8 response to claims that they were copying NEAS.
“Because the design of your event can also be considered ‘generic,’ and although you may feel that ours may appear to be similar, this does not give you a legal ability to impede ours, or other businesses, in an attempt to create an unfair monopoly by the use of the generic terms to restrict competition,” said organizer Gary Sohmer in a letter. “Your argument also falls short when our new word ‘AnimeFest,’ is introduced and added to our locale. We are not trying to exclusively use the terms Boston or Anime in our business use, or restrict anyone’s use of the terms in different locales.”
Michael Duffy of Roberto, Israel and Weiner represents the New England Anime Society.