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A Queer Dispute Over “Spam”

'Hormel Foods' is famous because it holds the European Union trademark for the spiced-ham food product 'Spam'. But it has failed to establish 'spam' as a EU-wide trademark when the same term is used to label unsolicited e-mails. Hormel tried to explain to the EU trademark body that the common people would not immediately link the 'spam' with junk e-mail but would join it with 'a kind of spicy ham' food product.

EU trademark officials refused to agree with Hormel Food Corp's explanation. This is another setback to the company while it has been battling to stop software companies from employing the word 'spam' to their products, an exercise that Hormel Foods said was mitigating its brand name. Also, 'spam' is not only found in technical dictionaries as a technical term for 'unsolicited commercial electronic mail' but is also listed in general dictionaries. An Internet search shows that the word 'spam' is in wide used on Internet and is known widely.

In response to these arguments, 'The European Office of Trade Marks and Designs' pointed that none of the large number of hits from a Google search for the word made a reference to the food. This implies that the most apparent meaning of the term 'spam' would simply be 'unsolicited' e-mail rather than anything pertaining to 'spicy ham'.

A run on the search engine showed that unwanted messages and fake contacts are better named as spam than the food product in Europe.
In 1937, Hormel created the word 'Spam' abbreviated for 'spiced ham' as an element of marketing campaign. With its success, it began synonymous with the canned meat. The company has been competing with product names such as 'Spam Bob', 'Spam Arrest' and 'Spam Cube' when it became involved with a chain of trademark disputes in the U.S. and other places.
IT professionals would not allow any confusion between junk e-mail and meat product. They say that they have no objection in the use of the term to indicate 'unsolicited commercial e-mail' but object the use of 'spam' as a trademark. The company said that it wants to avoid the day when someone may ask why does Hormel Foods choose to name its products after junk e-mail.

Related article: A New "Blackmailing" Variant Creeps Around…

» SPAMfighter News - 10/19/2006

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