- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 5, 2003

In an act that gives new and exaggerated meaning to narcissism Spike Lee, the film director, has filed suit against TNN for its planned name change to “Spike TV,” contending this action will cause him “irreparable injury.” Presumably, people might assume Spike is affiliated with the so-called “first network for men.”

Moreover, a misguided judge issued an injunction to stop the name change until a trial is held. To complicate matters further, the son of legendary musician Spike Jones claims his father has first claim on the name and maintains a Spike Lee victory in the lawsuit would undermine Spikes around the globe.

It should be clear to anyone that Spike Lee, as well as Spike Jones, does not own the Spike name. As far as I can tell, my grandchild could be named Spike without permission from Spike Lee.

Consider for a moment the ramifications of a court victory for Spike Lee, who is represented by that scion of legal virtue Johnnie Cochran. If Mr. Lee can prevent the National Network (TNN) from becoming “Spike TV,” couldn’t Nick Cage file suit against “Nick At Night” for name infringement? Why stop there?

Max Kampelman, former State Department official and ambassador, could sue Max TV. The federal government could sue USA network. Everyone named Chaim could sue Life TV. People who insult others routinely or talk trash on the basketball court could sue DIS TV. My neighbor’s dog named Bravo has a legitimate claim against that station. Bill Bennett, erstwhile education secretary, might file a suit against BET TV.

Where would it end? Are letters to be excluded from proprietary claims? Suppose your name is Carl Nathan Nussbaum; shouldn’t you have a shot at CNN? Doesn’t Marv Albert have a case against YES network? How about Alfred Nobel? Surely he has a claim against TNT.

From my standpoint, I offer my children gobs of TLC (tender, loving care). Don’t I rate a case against that network? Doesn’t Archimedes who shouted “Eureka” have a claim against “E”?

Spike Lee obviously believes he owns the Spike moniker. As I see it, the time has come for Spikes around the world to unite; you have something to lose — your name.

What will happen to golf if players can’t wear spikes? What will happen to baseball when spikes are removed from shoes? Volleyball will be a much more gentile game without the spike. Drinks will forever remain unspiked. An ear of grain will no longer be a spike and a long flower cluster will have to seek a different name.

If Mr. Lee were to win this suit, why should he stop with exclusivity over a first name? On to his family name.

The Sara Lee Co. would be in trouble. Robert E. Lee would be removed from history books. Sailors would be obliged to seek new terminology for leeward.

Perhaps most notable Spike Lee’s already expanded ego would be out of control, an amoeba multiplying with every name that resembles his own. He would be a trend-setter. Just as people have copyrighted Web address names, now celebrities will argue for exclusive rights to their Christian names.

Yes, of course, this is madness. In a society where you can sue over a ham sandwich and judges often resemble Disney’s Goofy, anything is possible. The trial should be held in July or August, but that might not be the end of this imbroglio. Spike Jones wants to produce a play and film about his father’s life tentatively titled “Spike.” Should that happen, Johnny Cochran could be a very busy man.

Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, is John M. Olin Professor of Humanities at New York University and publisher of American Outlook. He also is author of “Decade of Denial,” recently published by Lexington Books.

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