Viacom Sued Over Spike TV's 'American Digger'

American Digger Magazine - P 2012

American Digger Magazine - P 2012

Spike's reality series, American Digger, isn't done causing grief among amateur archaologists who like to scavenge for historical artifacts.

After the series premiered in March, the American Anthropological Association sent a letter on behalf of its 11,000 members for presenting archaeology as a "treasure-seeking adventure, in which our collective heritage is dug up and sold for monetary gain."

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Then in March, Ric Savage, the former professional wrestler who is the star of the series, was ousted as a columnist for the American Digger Magazine over his association with the show.

Now, the publisher of American Digger Magazine has gone another step, filing on Friday a trademark infringement lawsuit against Viacom for confusing consumers and damaging its mark. In response, Viacom tells The Hollywood Reporter that it attained a valid license from the plaintiff.

Grady "Butch" Holcombe and his wife Anita Holcombe are the publishers of the metal-digging hobbyist publication.

According to a complaint filed by Greybird Publishers in Georgia federal court, "Immediately after the Defendants' show aired, the Holcombes began receiving a barrage of calls, e-mails and unfavorable comments on hobbyist forums from subscribers and hobbyists alarmed by the show's highly inflammatory and negative depiction of their hobby and the risks the show posed for the ability of hobbyists to continue their metal detecting activities, and believing that the show was related to the AMERICAN DIGGER magazine."

The Holcombes say they have spent much time trying to clear up the confusion between their own magazine, which purportedly portrays metal detecting and excavation of artifacts related to America's heritage, to the Spike show, which allegedly emphasizes "the hopes of striking it rich and capitalizing on unearthing and selling bits of American History."

Holcombe says he applied to register the American Digger mark on August 12, 2011, and that the Trademark Office granted an application on May 15, 2012. He says Viacom had actual notice of the trademark ownership before adopting the name for the TV show.

The plaintiffs say they had originally believed the show would only last through its original 13-episode cycle, but then learned in August that it would return next year.

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Greybird Publishers is demanding that the defendants be enjoined from using the American Digger mark and provide for destruction all video and other related items bearing the mark. The plaintiff is also asking for actual damages, Viacom's profits, and further legal fees.

In reaction, a Viacom spokesperson said, "This is a surprising lawsuit on a number of levels.  Primarily due to the fact that – although not disclosed in his complaint – we were issued a valid license from the plaintiff that permits our full use of the ‘American Digger’ trademark.”

An employee who works for Holcombe said the publisher wouldn't take any questions.

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