Houston has been known as "Space City" thanks to its association with NASA for decades. But if you're an organization looking to promote tourism in the area — you can't use "Space City" unless you get permission first.
That's what the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau has claimed in a new lawsuit against the up-and-coming Space City Comic Con, asserting that the tourism group owns the trademark to "Space City."
That particular convention has only existed since 2012, growing from a gathering that started in a hotel lobby, to the NRG Center — the 1.4 million-square-foot convention center in Houston that offers space ranging from 40,000 to 168,000 square feet. This year's guest roster includes William Shatner from the original "Star Trek" as well as "Star Trek: The Next Generation" starts Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner and Marina Sirtis. Also scheduled to appear are Rene Auberjonois from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," Michael Welch from "Star Trek: Insurrection," and James Doohan's son, Chris Doohan, all over Memorial Day weekend.
The trademark, according to the Houston Chronicle, is narrow in scope, limiting its protection to "efforts that promote tourism, business and conventions in the greater Houston area."
It's unclear why the visitors bureau failed to enforce its trademark in the past — neither side commented on the Chronicle story. However, the lawsuit claims the visitors bureau only became aware of the convention last year in a time period it felt was too late to pursue action. The organization said it chose not to sue then because they believed it was just a one-time convention.
One thing noticeably different this year is the fact that the Houston visitors bureau now owns a 50 percent stake in a competing convention, Comicpalooza, which is set to run three weeks after Space City Comic Con. That convention bills itself as "The Texas International Comic-Con," according to its website, featuring a guest list that has big names like "Underworld" star Kate Beckinsale and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Dollhouse" actress Eliza Dushku. However, there are no big Star Trek names, unless you count "Incredible Hulk" series star Lou Ferrigno, who appeared in the fan production "Star Trek Continues."
A lawyer representing the visitors bureau told the Chronicle the organization tried to avoid the court by simply asking Space City Comic Con to change its name. After that, the visitors bureau sued, asking a court to prohibit the convention from using "Space City," and also to forfeit any profits the convention earned by using the name.
Space City Comic Con is set to run May 27-29 at the NRG Center, with Comicpalooza to follow June 17-19 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, also located in Houston.