Eat SPAM, Say Spam, Just Don't Try to Trademark Spam: Hormel

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You can say the word "spam" when referring to unsolicited commercial e-mail all you want as far as Hormel Foods Corp. is concerned. Just don't try to trademark it.


The Austin, MN, maker of SPAM the canned meat product recently filed a challenge against trademark applications of Seattle-based anti-spam (the e-mail sort) company SpamArrest LLC. Hormel apparently is challenging other "spam" trademark applications as well.


A search on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's Web site using the word "spam" reveals 43 active files, 11 of which are Hormel's. A check on the status of the rest reveals that most are either newly filed or that some kind of challenge has been filed against them.


"Hormel is acting like a corporate crybaby and ought to can it," Brian Cartmell, president/CEO of SpamArrest, said in a statement. "Dozens of companies use the word 'spam' in their legal and commercial names, and no one confuses any of us with the Hormel canned meat product."


SpamArrest also notes that Hormel concedes that spam is a common term used to describe unsolicited commercial e-mail.


"We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE, although we do object to the use of our product image in association with that term," says copy on Hormel's official SPAM Web site. "Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters."


"We are in compliance with all of their requirements," SpamArrest spokesman Allan Priaulx said.


However, the copy on Hormel's SPAM site continues, "This slang term does not affect the strength of our trademark SPAM."


Julie Craven, the person listed on Hormel's corporate Web site as director of corporate communications, did not return several calls asking for clarification of the company's policy on the use of the word "spam" in the names of companies that provide tools to block unsolicited commercial e-mail.


The SpamArrest challenge, along with numerous others, is pending before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.


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