Hormel Foods Says 'spam' Can Be Used to Refer to Unwanted E-Mail

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Chalk one up for the spammers.


In a long-running squabble between Hormel Foods Corp., the maker of the pink luncheon meat SPAM, and spammers who send unwanted e-mail, Hormel is calling it quits. And you can blame it on the British comedy troupe Monty Python.


In a message posted on www.spam.com, the "one and only official SPAM Web site," Hormel Foods said it no longer objects to the use of the term "spam" to denote unwanted commercial e-mail -- provided that the e-mail version is spelled "spam," all lowercase, and is not accompanied by depictions of the food manufacturer's distinctive blue-and-yellow can.


SPAM, when it refers to Hormel Foods' product, should always be uppercase, the company said. The term was coined in the '30s as a combination of the words "spiced" and "ham."


"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," Hormel Foods said in its message. "Hence, the analogy applied because [unsolicited commercial e-mail] was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet."


The message, which is buried deep within the Web site under a "legal & copyright info" link, goes on to say that the slang term "spam" does not weaken Hormel Foods' trademark on SPAM. It cites other cases of "trademark appropriation" that apparently did not weaken the owner's brand awareness, including Mickey Mouse to describe something unsophisticated; and Cadillac to denote something of high quality.


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