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Another Spike Stakes His Case

With the improbable battle over Spike TV heading to trial Aug. 18, Viacom-owned TNN got support from the son of the late and wacky musician Spike Jones, who filed papers with the court questioning filmmaker Spike Lee's corner on the Spike name market and invoking yet another Spike.

"If Spike Lee is concerned about confusion in the marketplace, why hasn't he sued Spike Jonze the filmmaker?" Spike Jones Jr. asked in court papers.

Lee and TNN are at odds over the name. He says Spike TV will cause viewers to think of him and contends that TNN is trying to profit off his celebrity. But TNN contends "Spike" is a macho-sounding name and nothing more.

Jones says his own business ventures could be in jeopardy if the court grants Lee exclusive claim to the Spike name in television and entertainment.

When the Lee v. Viacom trial arrives, the judge, New York State Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub, wants to focus on whether Spike TV will cause viewer confusion and not on Lee's celebrity status.

Even the trial date has been unusually subject to debate. Last week, the judge proposed a July 7 trial date, seeking to expedite the highly publicized process, which originally seemed headed for a September date. But Lee's lawyers countered that early July was too soon, and the August date was set. A TNN spokesman said the network was "pleased with the court's decision to grant our request for an expedited trial." The case will be heard by a judge, not a jury.

Lee, who won an injunction in early June to halt TNN's relaunch, is fighting to have that decision upheld.

The judge also turned up the heat on Lee, directing him to pony up another $2 million bond to cover TNN's expenses if it wins the case. Lee posted a $500,000 bond after the initial injunction, an amount TNN called "grossly inadequate."

In earlier court papers, a TNN lawyer asserted that the network could lose $42.7 million in advertising and promotional value if it is not allowed to relaunch as Spike.