Roller derby team claims ‘consumer confusion,’ sues Cleveland Indians over use of Guardians name

Two guardians rest on the Hope Memorial Bridge within site of Progressive Field, Friday, July...
Two guardians rest on the Hope Memorial Bridge within site of Progressive Field, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)(AP)
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 10:13 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Representatives from the Cleveland Guardians roller derby team filed a federal lawsuit against the Cleveland Indians baseball organization in an attempt to block the future name change.

Filings with the U.S. District Court for Northern Ohio from the roller derby team alleged that the Indians selected the name Guardians and hid the trademarking process, even though it was known that there was already an established organization locally of over seven years with the same title.

“As a nonprofit organization that loves sports and the city of Cleveland, we are saddened that the Indians have forced us into having to protect the name we have used here for years,” roller derby team owner Gary Sweatt said. “We know we are in the right, however, and just like our athletes do on the track, we will put everything into this effort at the courthouse.”

Through the court filings, attorneys for the roller derby team request that the Cleveland Indians be blocked from using the name Guardians because of likeness and trademark rights infringement for the title and proposed logos; both organizations would use images that are inspired by the large stone landmarks on the Home Memorial Bridge.

“Two sports teams in the same city cannot have identical names. Major League Baseball would never permit “Chicago Cubs” lacrosse or “New York Yankees” rugby teams to operate alongside its storied baseball clubs and rightly so. Confusion would otherwise result. Imagine seeing a “New York Yankees” shirt for sale and buying it. Which team did you just support?”

The Guardians claim that the Indians offered to pay only “a nominal amount” for use of the name rights.

“Even though the team had already invested an immense amount of time and money investigating and planning for a name change, including filing trademark applications on an island in the Indian Ocean, when given an opportunity to acquire all the Cleveland Guardians’ superior rights (including both the CLEVELAND GUARDIANS name and the domain), the Indians only offered to pay a nominal amount, likely no more than fifteen minutes of annual team revenue.

Mr. Sweatt rejected the Indians’ unreasonable offer the next day and presented a counter-offer. A month went by. The Indians never responded or sought a resolution.”

During an interview with 19 News, the roller derby team’s attorney, Christopher Pardo, said this is not a “money grab.”

“The Cleveland Guardians sued the Indians, not for money, but to get their name back,” Pardo said.

The Major League Baseball team has played under the Indians name since 1914, but the change was announced in July following consistent pressure from Native American groups.

The Indians name is expected to change to Guardians following the end of the 2021 season.

The Cleveland Indians have not responded publicly to the new lawsuit.

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