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Turns Out There Was Already a ‘Cleveland Guardians’ – And Now They’re Suing the Baseball Team

Chicago Cubs

You couldn’t have just gone with Cleveland Spiders? It was right there. And it was so good …

Alas, the Cleveland baseball team – formerly the Indians, soon to be the Guardians(?) – is being sued for allegedly stepping on an already-existing pro sports team in Cleveland:

As Christopher Pardo, the roller derby team’s lawyer, put it to WKYC: “It’s really important to understand the Cleveland Guardian roller derby team at no point sought to hold up the Indians,” he said.  “[The derby] said, ‘if you give us our name back and help us to get back to the position where we were, where if you Googled Cleveland Guardians, the roller derby team popped up and everybody knew who we were, then that’s fine with us. We don’t want anything from you. But if you’re not going to do that, then you should buy the rights to everything that we have that you’ve made valueless, because right now, my clients are getting questions about starting pitching.’”

From the Guardians’ perspective – the roller derby team – the Cleveland baseball team just swooped in and crushed their name, such that it now has no value. They wanted the Indians to make that right (one way or another) before the naming switch took place, or else they were going to file a lawsuit. That didn’t happen, so the lawsuit arrives.

Although I won’t go too deep on the legal precepts here (I was a lawyer in a past life, but I’m not one anymore and I never practice trademark law), but that mention there of “common law” trademark suggests that the roller derby team doesn’t have a federal trademark on “Cleveland Guardians,” and is instead claiming that they should have one by virtue of their open and continuous use of the name for 7+ years. That would explain why the baseball team even went this route without first trying to obtain the naming rights from the roller derby team – they probably checked a federal registry, didn’t see anything, and jumped. (That said, would it really have been that hard to poke around the internet and make sure there wasn’t another team in your one singular city that already used a name associated with your city?)

The Cleveland baseball team has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

Ultimately, this will be resolved, and I don’t foresee the Cleveland Guardians – the baseball version – having to change their name again. The roller derby squad might simply end up with some extra cash and a new name.

*OR* creative solution: merge the teams. Games played in Cleveland must be played on roller skates, and if you can flip the umpire into the stands, you get an extra run.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.