SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ You might think Dreamwerks, a little-known promoter of science fiction conventions, would welcome the creation of film studio DreamWorks by Steven Spielberg and others.

Guess again.

Dreamwerks' response was a trademark infringement lawsuit. On Tuesday, with one eyebrow raised, a federal appeals court ruled that the case could proceed.

Dreamwerks argues, ``apparently in earnest,'' that it does not want to mislead customers but suffers harm when people buy convention tickets under the impression that they are dealing with DreamWorks, said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court said the smaller company also had hopes of expansion and claimed its reputation would suffer if the film studio's image became tarnished.

``These are not fanciful or unreasonable concerns, though they may be somewhat exaggerated by the hope of winning an award or settlement against an apparently very solvent DreamWorks,'' said Judge Alex Kozinski in the 3-0 decision.

The Florida-based Dreamwerks Production Group began operating in 1984, sponsoring conventions in the Northeast and Midwest, mostly with a Star Trek theme and guests from the television series. The company trademarked its name in 1992, two years before Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen formed DreamWorks SKG.

A district court judge had dismissed the lawsuit, saying there was no likelihood of customer confusion.

Lawyers for the studio did not return a call seeking comment. The office of Dreamwerks' lawyer, Kenneth Umans, said Umans died last week, and no one else was available to discuss the case.