Posted June 04 2003 - 09:20 AM
| a common sense perspective |
One of the "common sense" propositions I try to follow is that one ought to know the facts before mouthing off with an opinion. So far, no one knows much of anything about (a) how Viacom chose the name, (b) how they plan to market it, © what logo(s) they intend to use, (d) whether the programming will be changed and, if so, to what, (e) to what extent the name of the network will be linked to the programming selections and whether such a link will be advertised. All of these factors are relevant to the viability of a Lanham Act claim.
Let's take a deliberately exaggerated hypothetical. Suppose the new "Spike TV" decided to run a programming slate that looked like BET's line-up, obtained Nike as a major sponsor, advertised heavily in publications with a large African-American readership, and adopted a slogan like, "Stop by OUR joint!" Under those circumstances, Spike Lee would have an excellent claim for the unauthorized use of his name. I'd take the case, even though this isn't an area in which I specialize. (Actually, I'd be conflicted out.)
Now, I'm sure the circumstances here aren't nearly as clear-cut. The point is simply that we do not know enough to judge. The claim may turn out to be as ludicrous as some of you suspect. But in the absence of any real information, what's being demonstrated here has very little to do with "common sense".