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EchoStar Withdraws Suit Over ‘Frank’ Dish Ads

In an apparent settlement, EchoStar Thursday withdrew the complaint it had filed against sports commentators John Madden and Charles Barkley regarding the satellite service’s Frank Caliendo commercials.

EchoStar filed for dismissal of its Feb. 14 filing, where it asked U.S. District Court Judge Boyd Boland in Denver to declare that Dish Network TV spots featuring comedian and impressionist Caliendo were legal.

In the commercials Caliendo, who stars in TBS’s Frank TV, imitates Madden and Barkley. But the ads apparently didn’t sit well with both sports announcers, and they threatened to take legal action against EchoStar.

That prompted the satellite provider to go to court, asking for a declaratory judgment that the TV spots don’t infringe on the trademark or privacy rights of Madden or Barkley.

EchoStar argued that the spots are parodies protected by the First Amendment.

It’s not known whether or not EchoStar will continue to run the ads, but the parties had been in settlement talks.

Both EchoStar and Lynn Larsen, the Cleveland lawyer who represents Madden and Barkley, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. EchoStar’s lawyer, Scott Llewellyn, declined to comment.

Initially, a hearing on the case had been set for this past Wednesday, April 9. A subsequent court filing said that “the parties have been engaged in ongoing and productive settlement discussions that may resolve the present action,” and the hearing was rescheduled for May 8.

In its Feb. 14 complaint, EchoStar said, “Mr. Caliendo’s impressions of Mr. Madden and Mr. Barkley are intended to be, and are, obvious and humorous parodies and caricatures of some of the traits of Mr. Madden and Mr. Barkley.”

According to EchoStar’s complaint, “Mr. Caliendo’s parodies and caricatures of Mr. Madden and Mr. Barkley do not create any likelihood of confusion, or suggest or imply that Mr. Madden or Mr. Barkley sponsor or promote Dish Network.”