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A Cleveland-area race management company is suing a West Side Catholic church to prevent it from using its name when holding a 5-mile race held in the church's name for more than three decades.

The dispute between St. Malachi Parish and Hermes Sports & Events, a well-known race-management company, came to a head this year when Hermes Sports sought to keep the church from using the name "St. Malachi Run" by claiming it owns the trademark on the name. The church, located for the past 150 years has sat on Washington Avenue west of the Detroit-Superior Bridge, responded by saying that it owns the trademark.

Hermes says the church can't use the name because the public will think the company is involved. The church, meanwhile, says that is not the case and accused the company of bullying the congregation.

The St. Malachi Run has been held under that moniker or a slight variation on it since 1981. The church this year severed ties with Hermes, which organized the race since the beginning. A parish attorney wrote a letter to Hermes in June that says it "believes that it can raise more funding for the parish and its mission with a different run organizer."

The dispute spilled into federal court this week when Hermes, co-owned by Nicholas Swingos of the famed Cleveland hotel and restaurant family, sued St. Malachi to prevent the church from hosting any race that uses the church's name.

"... Since 1981, Hermes Sports has continuously and exclusively used the ST. MALACHI name as its trademark and service mark to identify this event and to identify Hermes Sports as the source of the services behind the event," the lawsuit says, adding that the church's only role in the race was accepting the donation when it's over.

The lawsuit says the church is ramping up for a race to be held on March 10, called "The St. Malachi Church 5 Miler, 1 Mile Walk & Kids Run," with new organizers. A website created to promote next year's event -- which was not officially rolled out but still publicly accessible -- would cause confusion and the public to think that Hermes is involved, the suit states.

To make things more confusing, Hermes' website also lists a "St. Malachi Church Run" scheduled for the same day next year.

Hermes, who also sued the new organizers, seeks, among other measures, for a judge to declare that it is the only entity that can use the name "St. Malachi" in connection with any races.

Neither St. Malachi Parish nor Hermes ever registered a federal trademark on any variation of the name "St. Malachi Run." It is thus considered an "unregistered trademark," which allows a person or company to use it in a region, as those who live in the region would most strongly associate the trademark with them.

Matthew Cavanagh, an attorney representing St. Malachi, sent cleveland.com a lengthy response to Hermes' lawsuit, saying the church is disappointed that Hermes "would resort to having a large Chicago law firm file a federal lawsuit to try and bully an inner city parish to give up its name."

Click here to read the full story from Cleveland.com 
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