Viacom and Lee settle Spike spat

Delay has cost conglom over $30 mil in marketing

NEW YORK — Dust off the letterhead.

Viacom and helmer Spike Lee have settled their legal tussle regarding TNN’s rebranding as Spike TV.

As a result, State Supreme Court judge Walter Tolub on Monday lifted his injunction preventing Viacom from using the Spike TV moniker, a delay that the media conglom claimed had already cost it more than $30 million in marketing costs and a projected loss of more than $100 million in ad revenues.

Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

“We have settled the case with Viacom,” said one of Lee’s lawyers, Terry Gross. “It’s obviously good when parties settle.”

MTV Networks spokesperson Janet Hill confirmed that a settlement had been reached and said, “We are very happy about the outcome and (Tuesday) both parties will be issuing a joint statement.”

Both sides were ordered to appear before Tolub this morning.

A June 12 ruling by Tolub unplugged Viacom’s rebranding of TNN and effectively stopped the channel’s relaunch midstream. Suit was initiated by Lee on June 2.

Lee, who most recently helmed “The 25th Hour,” had argued that TNN and Viacom were exploiting his name for the male-oriented cable channel. He asserted that Spike TV was named for him and that he didn’t want to be linked with the channel because it features lowbrow programs.

The cable channel, which has been operating under the broad promotional label “The First Network for Men” while the dispute played out, recently launched male-centered programming like “Stan Lee’s Stripperella,” starring Pamela Anderson as a superhero stripper, and “Gary the Rat,” a toon about a lawyer turned rodent.

On June 24, Tolub raised Lee’s bond, upping his ante to $2.5 million, and the two parties agreed to a bench trial to begin Aug. 18.

Lee was supposed to have posted the additional $2 million bond Monday, but Tolub vacated his earlier judgment when the two sides reached their deal.

When issuing his preliminary injunction, Tolub stated that “What appears to be an exercise in egocentricity becomes on closer review an earnest attempt by a prominent personality to limit what he regards as the commercial exploitation of his public persona.”

Viacom countered that it was its right to use “the common word and nickname “spike” and that the burden rested on Lee to prove that the public identified him by his first name only and would associate him with Spike TV.” Lawyers for Viacom rejected the validity of Lee’s celeb affidavits — which included actor Edward Norton and former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley — saying they were not representative of the public’s opinion.

Viacom had fought to stay the injunction with a pair of rehearings and was unsuccessful in both attempts.

(The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this story.)

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