Can the Spam says Hormel Foods

Can the Spam says Hormel Foods

By Stuart Finlayson

The makers of Spam canned luncheon meat have taken umbrage at the appropriation of its trade mark by a Seattle-based technology company and are set to pursue the matter through the courts.

Hormel Foods, makers of the famous product, which recently passed the six billion mark in cans sold since its introduction in 1937, has challenged Spam Arrest's applications to operate under the Spam moniker. The company provides spam-blocking software for email users.

Of course, the term spam has also come to mean junk mail. Use of the term "spam" was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit in which a group of Vikings sang a chorus of "spam, spam, spam . . ." in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy applied because unsolicited email was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet.

When filing to the US Patent and Trademark Office, Hormel argued that Spam Arrest's use of the term would cause damage to the "substantial goodwill and good reputation" it has built up in connection with its lunch meat and associated products over the years.

The company also claimed that because Spam Arrest's name so closely resembles that of its lunch meant, the public might be led to believe that Hormel Foods endorses Spam Arrest's products.

Interestingly though, on its Website, Hormel Foods states that it does not object to the use of the slang term spam to describe unsolicited email, but it does object to the use of its product image in association with the term.

Spam Arrest's chief executive Brian Cartmell was dismissive of Hormel's actions. "Hormel is acting like a crybaby and ought to can it."

Trademark lawyers were also sceptical that Hormel could win the case, such is the ubiquity of the term spam in the technology world. "The problem that Hormel has is that the word has come to have a different meaning and has become adopted so widely that it is going to be difficult if not impossible for Hormel to prevail," said John W. Caldwell, a Philadelphia patent and trademark lawyer.

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