July 2003

Artists, Record Labels

Director Spike Lee issued proceedings against US media giant Viacom over plans to rename a cable channel Spike TV. Viacom had said that it wanted to make the name change in order to attract more male viewers. Lee’s application included a request for injunctive relief against Viacom’s use of the name Spike, saying he had never given his consent for it to be used. Lee – real name Shelton Jackson – had included affidavits from actors Ed Norton and Ossie Davis and former senator Bill Bradley. The signatories said they had thought of Lee when they heard about Spike TV and believed he had become affiliated with the network. Viacom argued that the word ‘spike’ was a common and ordinary word which they were free to use. Viacom, which also owns broadcasters such as CBS, MTV, and VH1 had been directed by the court to explain why it should not be barred from using the name. In a surprise decision the 5 member Manhatten Court held that Viacom did have a case to answer and ruled that Viacom could not use the name until a further hearing in September 2003. Acting Justice Tolub held that ‘contrary to the defendant’s 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’.

This story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/entertainment/showbiz/2961726.stm
Also The Times 21 June 2003 and see the Trade Mark case involving the newspaper trade name ‘Mail’ below.

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