Roller derby team sues Cleveland MLB franchise over Guardians name
The Cleveland baseball team that is about to switch its name from Indians to Guardians is being sued by a roller derby team because of the change, according to WKYC's Mark Naymik and Jay Crawford.
Cleveland's men's flat-track roller derby team, which uses the team name Guardians, filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday to block the baseball team from using the name after the MLB franchise announced plans to rebrand ahead of the 2022 season.
"Major League Baseball would never let someone name their lacrosse team the 'Chicago Cubs' if the team was in Chicago, or their soccer team the 'New York Yankees' if that team was in New York - nor should they," the roller derby team's attorney, Christopher Pardo, said in a statement.
"The same laws that protect Major League Baseball from the brand confusion that would occur in those examples also operate in reverse to prevent what the Indians are trying to do here. By taking the name 'Cleveland Guardians' overnight, the Indians knowingly and willfully eviscerated the rights of the original owner of that name - the real Cleveland Guardians."
The lawsuit asserts that the baseball team shortchanged the roller derby team after negotiations between the two sides broke down Tuesday.
The baseball team "only offered to pay a nominal amount, likely no more than 15 minutes of annual team revenue" to the roller derby team for its intellectual property rights, social media accounts, and website, the lawsuit states. The owner of the roller derby team, Gary Sweatt, rejected the offer, made a counteroffer, and never heard back.
The baseball team filed its trademark application for the name and logo design in Mauritius, which the lawsuit alleges was meant to surprise the roller derby team. The lawsuit also says the baseball team reached out to the roller derby team for the first time several months after filing.
The roller derby team has used Guardians as its team name since it was established in 2013 and claims in the lawsuit to have earned "'common law' trademark rights based on priority of use in northeast Ohio."
The Cleveland baseball team, which used to be called the Naps, started using the name Indians after Nap Lajoie's departure from the franchise in 1914. That name and the team's former Chief Wahoo logo have long been contentious. The organization removed the controversial logo in 2019 and announced in July 2021 that Guardians would be the new team name beginning in 2022. At the time, the baseball team acknowledged it was aware of the roller derby team and said it had taken the appropriate legal steps.
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