Roller Derby team sues Cleveland over use of Guardians name


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Roller Derby team sues Cleveland over use of Guardians name

CLEVELAND – A roller derby team that has called itself the Cleveland Guardians since 2013 sued the city’s major league team in federal court in Cleveland on Wednesday alleging that the Indians’ name change to Guardians infringes on their trademark.

“A major league club cannot just take the name of a smaller team and use it for itself,” the lawsuit says. “There can’t be two ‘Cleveland Guardians’ teams in Cleveland and, to be frank, Plaintiff was here first.”

The Cleveland Indians announced in July that they would take over the name Guardians for the 2022 season after years of criticism that the Indians name and Chief Wahoo logo were racist. The new name, the team has said, was influenced in part by the two large Art Deco statues that appear to stand guard on a bridge that spans the Cuyahoga River.

The all-genre roller derby team is based in the Cleveland suburb of Parma. In 2017, he formally registered the Cleveland Guardians name with the Ohio secretary of state and has been selling team products since 2014, according to the lawsuit.

In a statement Wednesday, the Indians said: “We have had and continue to trust our position to become the Guardians. We believe there is no conflict between the parties and their ability to operate in their respective business areas.”

In April, the baseball team filed a trademark application for the Guardians’ name in the East African island nation of Mauritius, “effectively concealing the application unless one knew where to look,” the suit says.

The baseball team contacted the roller derby team in June, told team officials it was considering using the Guardians name and asked the roller derby team to submit a photo of their jersey, according to the lawsuit.

When the roller derby team offered to sell the rights to the Guardians’ name to the baseball team, the Indians offered to pay a “nominal amount” that the roller derby team declined, according to the lawsuit.

The baseball team subsequently made another trademark filing in Mauritius for the team logo, according to the lawsuit. The team also filed two federal trademark applications in July claiming exclusive rights to the Guardians’ name.

Negotiations between the two teams over the rights to the name began after the baseball team’s announcement in July and fell through Tuesday, according to the lawsuit.

The roller derby team wants the baseball team to announce and promote that it would no longer be called the Guardians with “at least as much effort and resources” used to promote the new name, according to the lawsuit.

He also wants the baseball team to establish a fund equal to what the team spends on advertising and promotions if it continues to use the Guardians name so that the roller derby team can purchase “corrective advertising.”

Mark Sommers, a Washington-based trademark attorney for the Finnegan law firm, said a judge would have to determine whether the Guardians’ name will cause confusion for fans following the baseball and roller derby teams.

“If there is no intersection between the two brands, there is no risk of confusion,” Sommers said.

The lawsuit is likely to be resolved before it goes to trial, Sommers said.

“Money is a huge influencer in resolving trademark cases,” he said. “The playing field, so to speak, is better resolved through negotiation and resolution than a court of law.”

The Cleveland Indians’ name change is scheduled to become official in mid-November.


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