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Spike Lee Spikes ‘Spike TV’

Jun 16, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Spike Lee’s request for a temporary injunction barring TNN from renaming itself Spike TV was granted last week by a Manhattan judge, halting the struggling network’s much-ballyhooed rebranding, which was scheduled for today.
The Viacom-owned channel will remain “The New TNN” for the time being. Representatives said they have pulled several print ads scheduled to run this week announcing the brand change. The net’s planned June 26 debut of three new animated programs-“Ren & Stimpy,” “Gary the Rat” and “Stripperella”-will continue as planned.
“We are continuing on our path to build the first network for men, and we will proceed on schedule with the premieres of our exciting new programs,” read a prepared statement from TNN. “We are pleased that our argument will be considered by the full panel of the Appellate Division next Tuesday, and we trust that the Court will agree with us.”
Viacom attorneys have argued that Mr. Lee cannot prove ownership of the name Spike, citing other figures who use the moniker, including director Spike Jonze and musicians Spike Jones and Spike Milligan.
Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub countered that many celebrities have a “vested right” in their first name or a surname, including Cher, Madonna and Sting. Judge Tolub also ordered Mr. Lee to post a $500,000 bond to cover Viacom’s legal expenses should he lose.
Viacom lost a subsequent appellate court request for a stay of injunction.
Mr. Lee has claimed that Viacom intentionally chose the name to capitalize on his reputation as a popular director and celebrity. “I don’t want to be associated with that `Stripperella’ crap,” Mr. Lee reportedly said, referring to Spike TV’s animated series about a crime-fighting exotic dancer.
In his June 2 complaint, Mr. Lee noted that previous news articles have referred to his television directorial work as “Spike TV,” and that he recently launched an advertising agency called “SpikeDDB.”
More important, according to Justice Tolub, was the allegation in Mr. Lee’s complaint that TNN President Albie Hecht admitted in media interviews that the affinity with Mr. Lee was one reason why defendants chose the name, and that Mr. Hecht has stated Spike TV “refers to a `guy’s name’ that has an `attitude’ and a `personality’ that is `aggressive,’ `irreverent, unapologetically male’ and is `smart and contemporary.”’
Viacom representatives would not comment on Mr. Lee’s allegations.