Hormel Loses Law Case Over the Word “Spam”
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Q: What’s the difference between spam and SPAM?

A: One is the word commonly used to refer to unsolicited commercial email, and the other is… a word commonly used to refer to unsolicited commercial email.


In a move which may have surprised nobody more than it surprised canned meat company Hormel, Hormel lost their legal effort to regain control over their trademark “SPAM”.

Having taken their effort to the EU, Hormel applied to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, which is where you apply for trademarks for use in the European Union. Interestingly, Hormel was not requesting the trademark “SPAM” as used on their luncheon meat, but rather, in an apparent bid to rein in the use of “spam” gone wild, they were applying for the trademark “spam” as pertains to “services to avoid or suppress unsolicited emails” and “creation and maintenance of computer software; technical consultancy, particularly in combination with network services; providing of expertise, engineering services and technical consulting services.”

They had also asked for the trademark “spam” as applied to “economic consultancy, particularly in combination with network services; providing of expertise, engineering services and computer programming; economic consulting services.”

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Having had their initial application denied, Hormel appealed the decision, only to be dealt a rather forceful and stunning defeat, the appeals board observing that Hormel’s claim in the application that the word ‘spam’ would not be understood by a large part of the average English speaking public to mean ‘unsolicted commercial email’ was ridiculous.

“Indeed,” they said, “the board notes that the term SPAM is not only listed in technical dictionaries as a technical term for ‘unsolicited commercial email’ but is also cited in general dictionaries.”

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4 thoughts on “Hormel Loses Law Case Over the Word “Spam”
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  1. SPAM: Swift Premium (H)AM. It was introduced by Swift & Company Meat Packing before computers were even made with vacuum tubes. (They were struggling for existance – embryonic, you might say.) Corporate takeovers and time and now Hormel considers it theirs. C’est la vie?

  2. If Hormel wanted to preserve their trademark, they should have remained with their Meat Products and stayed away from the Internet with the exception a Web Adress.
    IMHO.. Spam is too Salty, and SPAM is trash mail that wastes my time.

  3. If Hormel wanted to preserve their trademark, they should have done something way back when Monty Python did their Spam skit, since that’s what inspired the use of the term for “unsolicited commercial email.”

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