I guess we should have seen this one coming. After all, Minnesota based Hormel Foods has produced the luncheon meat SPAM for decades. And quite naturally, they hold a trademark for the name.
So in a move that shouldn’t really surprise any of us, Hormel has a message for a Seattle software company: Stop, in the name of Spam!
The canned-meat company has filed two legal challenges with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to try to stop SpamArrest from using the decades-old name Spam.
SpamArrest, which specializes in blocking junk e-mail or “spam,” filed papers to trademark its corporate name early this year. Hormel then sent the company a warning to drop the word “Spam.” SpamArrest refused.
So who has the rights to spam – and who hasn’t? It looks like the Trademark Trial and Appeals Court in Washington, D.C. will hear the case sometime in 2004.
SpamArrest’s chief executive maintains that his company’s use of the word has nothing to do with Hormel’s product, first produced in 1937. Hormel officials disagree, arguing that the company has carefully protected and invested in the brand name.
In their legal challenges, Hormel defends the SPAM name and contends that the public could confuse the meat product with the technology company. It filed its challenges in late June.
Hormel acknowledges that its brand name has taken on new meaning, and it outlines on its Web site what it considers acceptable uses of the word.
It says it doesn’t object when “spam” is used to describe unsolicited commercial e-mail, but it does object when pictures of its product are used in association with the e-mail term.
So until this case is settled one way or another, here’s a tip: don’t eat junk email and don’t email luncheon meat – or something like that.
Source: AP, “Hormel Fights to Defend Spam Name,” July 30, 2003.