Readers Roundtable: Can RD Block Church from Using Own Name in Title of Race?

St Malachi Church, Cleveland

For over 30 years, runners took to the streets near Downtown Cleveland on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day for the St. Malachi Race. For most serious runners, this early-season five-miler kicked off the year of racing, including a few of mine. Year after year, early March saw Cleveland runners of all abilities descend on the historic Cleveland St. Malachi church to test their fitness while contributing to the church’s homeless outreach programs.

Throughout its entire existence, the company Hermes Road Racing put on the race. But recently, because St. Malachi claims they only received a tiny fraction of the popular race’s proceedsย (just $3,000 out of the $113,000 taken in), it decided to go with a different race promoter, Greater Cleveland XC, which promised to provide a greater percentage of the proceeds to the church’s charitable programs.ย Cue the lawsuit.

Hermes claims it holds the trademark rights to the name “St. Malachi” for any running events in Cleveland and that the St. Malachi church nor any other race promoter may use that name for a race in Cleveland.

What do you think?

When an organization hires a race promoter to put on a fundraising race for them, who owns the rights to the name of the race: the organization or the race promoter?

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. I’d wager that the church has certainly been named St. Malachi long enough that it should never have naming rights issues. While I understand that the race company helped build the race, they didn’t build the church and they clearly didn’t care enough about the church to give more of the races profits to them. While a good race company makes it so people want to run their races, this doesn’t seem to be a race that people go to because there are no other races, and they like the race company. They go for the tradition, the cause, and the running- It’s not all about you Hermes.

  2. I’m not a trademark expert, but the Bar exam DID cover bad juju and I’m pretty sure Hermes suit is in violation of the juju rule of common decency. They *may* have a case for using the specific race name (if they came up with it, but it’s also so generic and obvious that taking credit for naming it seems sad…), but not for the general “St. Malachi.” If the church was snarky, they could re-brand the race as the “Beat Hermes Five-Mile.”