A roller derby team that has called itself the Cleveland Guardians since 2013 sued the city’s Major League Baseball team in a Cleveland federal court on Wednesday, alleging that the switch from Indians to Guardians infringes on its trademark.
“A Major League club cannot simply take a smaller team’s name and use it for itself,” the lawsuit said.
“There cannot be two ‘Cleveland Guardians’ teams in Cleveland, and, to be blunt, Plaintiff was here first.”
After years of criticism that the Indians name and Chief Wahoo logo were racist, the baseball team announced in July that it would assume the name Guardians starting in the 2022 season.
The new name was adopted from the two large Art Deco statues that appear to stand guard on a bridge spanning the Cuyahoga River.
The all-gender roller derby team is based in the Cleveland suburb of Parma.
It formally registered the name Cleveland Guardians in 2017 with the Ohio secretary of state and has been selling team merchandise since 2014, the lawsuit said.
The baseball team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
In April, the baseball team filed a trademark application for the Guardians name in the East African island nation of Mauritius, “effectively hiding the application unless one knew where to look,” the lawsuit said.
The baseball team contacted the roller derby team in June, telling team officials it was considering using the Guardians name and asked the roller derby team to send a photo of its jersey, according to the lawsuit.
When the roller derby team offered to sell the rights to the Guardians name to the baseball team, the former Indians offered to pay a “nominal amount,” which the roller derby team rejected, the lawsuit stated.
The baseball team subsequently made another trademark filing in Mauritius for the team logo.
The team also filed two federal trademark applications in July, claiming exclusive rights to the Guardians name.
Negotiations between the two teams over rights to the name began after the baseball team’s July announcement and broke down on Tuesday, the lawsuit said.
The roller derby team wants the baseball team to advertise and promote that it would no longer call itself the Guardians with “at least as much effort and resources” used to promote the new name, according to the lawsuit.
It also wants the baseball team to establish a fund equal to what the team spends on advertising and promotions if it continues using the Guardians name, so the roller derby team can buy “corrective advertising.”
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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