Filmmaker Spikes TNN Relaunch

By Michelle
June 13, 2003 - 4:41 PM

A judge yesterday barred Viacom from renaming the TNN cable network "Spike TV" after filmmaker and television producer Spike Lee sued over infringement on the use of his name.

"Contrary to defendants' position, the court is of the opinion that in the age of mass communication, a celebrity can in fact establish a vested right in the use of only their first name or a surname," wrote New York State Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub as cited by Yahoo! Entertainment. The judge cited the recognition of celebrities such as Cher and Sting by single monikers.

Lee's lawyer Johnnie Cochran presented evidence that the filmmaker's fans believed he was associated with the Spike network, including affidavits from actor Edward Norton and Senator Bill Bradley.

Viacom had planned a massive relaunch of TNN as Spike, billed as "the first network for men", in contrast to onetime Viacom property Lifetime and other cable stations targeted toward female viewers. The renaming of TNN, which evolved from The Nashville Network into The National Network, was scheduled to take place on June 16 and had already been launched Tuesday night at a celebration at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

The new Spike lineup was to feature entertainment likely to appeal to men, including reruns of Star Trek, CSI and Baywatch, professional wrestling, and adult cartoons like the erotic Stripperella, a character voiced by Pamela Anderson.

An Emmy award winner, Lee has directed films for Paramount and was scheduled to begin filming a movie this week for the Showtime network — both Viacom holdings. However, he said, "I don't want to be associated with that Stripperella crap."

Viacom sought an immediate stay of the injunction prohibiting the company's use of the name, citing other famous entertainers named Spike including musicians Spike Jones and Spike Milligan and stating that Lee does not have a trademark on the name. The judge asked that Lee post a $500,000 bond to cover Viacom's potential losses should the media giant ultimately win the suit.

Viacom has owned TNN since 2000. The corporation also owns the CBS network, Star Trek production company Paramount Pictures, Pocket Books parent company Simon & Schuster and many other media and publishing ventures.

TNN's web site is still geared for a relaunch as Spike next week, and no announcements have been made yet about potential schedule changes.

Yahoo!'s reports on the case can be found here and here. More coverage may be found at The Hollywood Reporter.

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