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Spam Your Rights Online

Hormel Sues Over SpamArrest Name 526

Posted by timothy
from the potted-meat-is-lawyer-brains dept.
slammin'j writes "According to this article from the Star Tribune, Hormel has filed a lawsuit against Spam Arrest LLC. for endangering "substantial goodwill and good reputation" of their meat product, Spam. If Hormel wins, it could be bad news for umpteen companies that make use of the word spam in their name."
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Hormel Sues Over SpamArrest Name

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  • by chill (34294) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:01AM (#6349637) Journal
    Spam? Good reputation? Ha! That stuff has been the butt of jokes as longs as I can remember! Who are they kidding?
    • Re:Good reputation? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by brkello (642429)
      It may not have a good reputation in the U.S., but in a lot of other countries, they love the stuff. I bet to the British, Monty Python's skit about the person who doesn't want SPAM was funny because they couldn't believe there was someone that actually didn't like SPAM.
      • Re:Good reputation? (Score:4, Informative)

        by b!arg (622192) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:25AM (#6349959) Homepage Journal
        I hear it's treated with reverence in Hawaii for some reason...
        • Re:Good reputation? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by li99sh79 (678891) <sam@@@cosmic-hippo...org> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:34AM (#6350070) Homepage Journal

          I hear it's treated with reverence in Hawaii for some reason...

          That's because for a while it was about the only meat you could get imported into hawaii. Or something like that. My parents lead a field trip there this past spring and when they got back they explained the hawaii spam connection. Anybody want to expand on my half-remembered explanation?

          -sam

          • Re:Good reputation? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Nurlman (448649) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:46AM (#6350192)
            Spam is indeed quite popular not only in Hawaii, but throughout the Pacific islands.

            Importing food to Hawaii, Micronesia, etc. is expensive and difficult. Fresh foods, like dairy products and breads, come by boat (too bulky to ship by air, for the most part), but that means a delay of several days to several weeks before they wind up on store shelves. Lots of things go bad in that amount of time, even on refrigerated ships.

            Spam, and to a lesser extent, canned meats like corned beef from Australia, fill the need for meat nicely. They stay fresh indefinitely and travel easily without the need for refrigeration. As a result, they're much cheaper than "fresh" meat and much more popular.

            (Travel writer Paul Theroux joked in "The Happy Isles of Oceania" that islanders liked Spam because it reminded them of their history of cannibalism. Of course, very few islands ever had a history of cannibalism in the first place, and Theroux admits that he threw the idea out there as a cheap joke, not an anthropological theory.)
          • Re:Good reputation? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Fishstick (150821) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:49AM (#6350229) Journal
            Had to do with rationing during WW2:

            http://www.modernsurf.com/spam/ [modernsurf.com]

            In the beginning Hormel had sold only twenty thousand tons of Spam when World War 2 started; it was during the war that SPAM, like S.O.S. (dried chipped beef on toast, known to soldiers as ?Shit on a Shingle?), became notorious. SPAM was a lendlease staple, sent in such abundance to Allied troops that Nikita Khrushchev later credited it with the survival of the otherwise starving Russian army, a can of SPAM is like heaven after eating a shoe sole. In England, where beef was severely rationed, SPAM was the only meat like matter many families ate for weeks on end.

            Hawaii, staging ground for the war in the Pacific, fell so in love with SPAM that to this day, Hawaiians eat an average of six cans per person per year, far more than in any other place on earth. I know a few Hawaiians who eat two cans a week. Because it was unaffected by meat rationing, SPAM was eaten on the American home front in record quantity, too.

            • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) * on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @01:53PM (#6351408) Homepage
              "Nikita Khrushchev later credited it with the survival of the otherwise starving Russian army"

              Holy crap.
              If the Russian troops don't have Spam and starve, the Nazis take Moscow and Russia falls. If Russia falls then the Nazis focus on Britain and it falls. Without Spam, Hilter might have conquered the whole world. I have a new respect for it.

              "Because it was unaffected by meat rationing..."

              Maybe that should tell people something about its contents.

              -B
        • Wifey and I to hawaii for our honeymoon. The McDonalds there had a breakfast spam meal. We were curious, but decided against it.

          Spam has some very beneficial uses, in fact I have the montey python mp3 linked on my desktop incase a telemarketer calls. When they ask for the man of the house I ask them to hold and place the phone by my speaker. I've only done it twice but the last time I would pick the phone up and ask "Did he pick up yet? no, gosh i'll find him for you" and set it down, almost had him listen
      • I bet to the British, Monty Python's skit about the person who doesn't want SPAM was funny because they couldn't believe there was someone that actually didn't like SPAM.

        Yes, to the British.
        The rest of the civilized world loaths it because it is made from sub-standard, machanically recovered meat that no nutritionally aware person in their right mind would even feed to their dog (not that it'd eat it, anyway). The same goes for corned beaf...

        Sorry if I offended any of you Brits? I like your beer though

    • by Fishstick (150821) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:24AM (#6349945) Journal
      That's why the amount they are seeking is $0.98
    • When you consider that SPAM has been manufactured since World War II--probably one of the few items from that era that you can find in a 24-hr convenience store (barring, say, pocket combs, nail clippers, and chewing gum)--it's *almost* understandable that Hormel would just now be waking up to the fact that their product is being maligned. Someone should tell them that we won the war, also.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:25AM (#6349958)
      It's also the butt of a lot of other things.
    • Re:Good reputation? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Talking Goat (645295) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:34AM (#6350073)
      It's actually very funny... Hormel has been quite adamant about defending its SPAM(TM) for years, as I've noticed from reading some certain trade publications.

      I've flipped through a few magazines marketed towards aspiring fiction writers, and these publications are littered with advertisements by companies demanding that writers reference their products correctly in any works produced. I specifically remember an ad by Hormel requesting that writers refer to Spam as "Hormel Foods Brand SPAM Luncheon Meat" anytime one would want to refer to it in some sort of work of literature.

      Also, from the Spam.com Legal and Copyright Info [spam.com] page, I found this hilarious little bit:
      5. Trademark Information. The following trademarks used or which are planned to be used in this site, whether registered or unregistered, are owned by Hormel Foods: SPAM; HORMEL; SPAMBURGER; SPAMTASTIC and any other SPAM-derived terms.
      So if I make up the word "SpamWhore", well, it's owned by Hormel Foods, and should have been spelled SPAMWHORE. Even though they've never registered it. Too funny.

      When does fair use ever come to the mind of a corporation?
      • by Marc2k (221814) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:51AM (#6350234) Homepage Journal
        Incorrigable! They're the SCO of the processed meat industry!
      • Re:Good reputation? (Score:3, Informative)

        by danila (69889)
        OMFG! A Talking Goat. Like there are not enough human idiots here on Slashdot. Read your own quote, stupid! "...trademarks used... in this site... are owned by Hormel Foods: ... any... SPAM-derived terms...". So if you see SPAMWHORE on Hormel's site, be advised that this is most probably their trademark. The reason is that they are talking about THEIR PRODUCTS on this site, and I guess they would register a trademark before introducing the product on the market and discussing it on the site.

        So if you make
    • by mathin (466667) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:26PM (#6350627)
      There was a good story on NPR's [npr.org] Morning Edition this morning about this ... The NPR story [npr.org] has a bit more 'meat' if you'll pardon the pun.
  • To late foo! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dankjones (192476)
    They haven't done anything to protect their name, they have no right to start harvesting litigous funds now.
    • Re:To late foo! (Score:2, Informative)

      by indros (211103)
      Actually some time ago, I think they did attempt to sue [wired.com] over the use of the word SPAM..

      I would think that the previous outcome would have some kind of effect on this.
    • Re:To late foo! (Score:3, Informative)

      by rifter (147452)
      Not only that, they have historically actively encouraged the use of their name for UCE. I have read numerous articles in which Hormel representatives said it was fine with them and they even had a good humour about it. They even took the trouble to put up this website [spam.com] clarifying their position. They said as long as the name is not in all caps and their product image is not used, they do not care.
      • Re:To late foo! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rifter (147452) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:13AM (#6349817) Homepage
        Heck, should have RTFA. It looks like they are only suing because Spam Arrest tried to Trademark Spam. in that case I think they are in their rights because otherwise the UCE company could try to stop them selling their meat-like substance as Spam.
        • Re:To late foo! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DeadSea (69598) *
          A trademark is only good for a certain area and a certain product. There can be an AbsobestWidgets(TM) in Boston and another unrelated AbsobestWidgets(TM) in Phoenix. Delta(TM) can be an airline and an unrelated Delta(TM) can sell faucets. AbsobestWidgets(TM) in Phoenix could not open a new store in Boston without a name change. Delta airlines could not start selling faucets without a name change.

          The exception to this is famous marks. Marks that everybody knows and everybody associates with a speci

        • Re:To late foo! (Score:4, Informative)

          by Blue Stone (582566) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:12PM (#6350466) Homepage Journal
          "It looks like they are only suing because Spam Arrest tried to Trademark Spam. in that case I think they are in their rights because otherwise the UCE company could try to stop them selling their meat-like substance as Spam."

          If people had read the article [spam.com] on their website regarding use of their tradmark name SPAM, they would also realise how reasonable the company has been [or had to be :) .]

          "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. 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.

          This slang term does not affect the strength of our trademark SPAM. In a Federal District Court case involving the famous trademark STAR WARS owned by LucasFilms, the Court ruled that the slang term used to refer to the Strategic Defense Initiative did not weaken the trademark and the Court refused to stop its use as a slang term. Other examples of famous trademarks having a different slang meaning include MICKEY MOUSE, to describe something as unsophisticated; TEFLON, used to describe President Reagan; and CADILLAC, used to denote something as being high quality."
    • Re:To late foo! (Score:5, Informative)

      by aborchers (471342) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:09AM (#6349773) Homepage Journal
      RTA. They are opposing an attempt to trademark a name containing their registered trademark. Considering the typically litigious nature of other companies and Hormel's relative tolerance of the use of the generic term "spam", I hardly think they should be cast as the bad guy for opposing someone else trademarking a name containing theirs.

      • Re:To late foo! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by arkanes (521690) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `senakra'> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:16AM (#6349853) Homepage
        Unless Hormel starts marketing either email filters or bulk email software, I don't see how it's an issue. Trademarks only cover things withing a specific trade.
        • by fobbman (131816)
          I think that I could argue quite successfully that the majority of unsolicited emails that I receive probably originated from a pig's ass as well, so I can see the connection.

      • The SPAM Example (Score:3, Insightful)

        by yintercept (517362)
        I agree that Hormel has been generous in allowing use of their name for unsolicited email.

        When Hormel loses the battle, and every variation of the word spam can be registered by others as a trademark, then Hormel will be held up as yet another example of why companies should not be generous with use of their trademarks, and why they have to be aggressive in suing over property rights issues.

        Personally, I hope Hormel wins and that spamArrest will have to come up with a different name for their product.
  • I could've sworn I read something similar to this in The onion [theonion.com] once but I'm unable to find the story. Guess it came true.

    I'm just surprised Hormel didn't start suing people ages ago for the negative uses of the word spam.
    • Re:The onion (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shalda (560388) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:14AM (#6349831) Homepage Journal
      Hormel has been sending out Cease and Desist letters pretaining to Spam at least as far back as 1997 [com.com], and probably earlier. While Spam has long had negative connotations for some, it is also quite popular with others. Spam is very popular in Hawaii. The term has been appropriated by the public for use in an entierly different context, making this much different from trademark fights by Xerox, Kleenex, and Rollerblades to name a few. And, as the article states, "trademark lawyers were skeptical that Hormel could prevail."
      • by djembe2k (604598) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @01:03PM (#6350962)
        The Cease and Desist in this case referenced in the parent post is for the use of images of cans of SPAM by an individual on his website, not just the term. They also threw in some stuff about domain names that use "spam" in them and so on, which is probably just typical lawyerly overkill. (By the way, does anybody know the outcome of this 5-year old case?)

        People keep saying that Hormel hasn't been defending their trademark, but it seems to me that they have established a clear policy on their site about how the feel about their trademark, and they've stuck consistently to it. In short, if you use "spam" generically, they don't care. If you use it in a way that associates it with their product (i.e. images of the product, or SPAM in all caps as they always do it), they'll come after you.

        In this case, somebody wants to trademark the name, and they are fighting that. It seems reasonable that two trademarks containing the word "spam" could be more of a threat than widespread, non-trademarked generic usage. Their position seems reasonable and consistent. Maybe wrong, maybe right, but reasonable.

        And I think that they should be given a lot of credit for this. It they were really sending out C&D letters consistently for years and years, they'd be one more of the many companies regularly mocked and griped about on /., but they haven't been. They've only taken legal action in rare cases that are more likely to affect them directly. They're using common sense, and keeping their lawyers in check, but not signing away their rights. Let's give them some credit.

  • by Donut2099 (153459) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:02AM (#6349647) Journal
    that someone came up with some software to keep that pink canned monstrosity of a luncheon meat out of my cupboard... oh wait, they are talking about email? nevermind
  • ick. (Score:5, Funny)

    by sweeney37 (325921) * <mikesweeney@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:02AM (#6349649) Homepage Journal
    endangering "substantial goodwill and good reputation" of their meat product

    Don't they already endanger the goodwill and "good" reputation by calling it a "meat product"?

    Mike
    • If they cared as much as they do now (2000, the decade of lawsuits) back in the '70s when Monty Python based a whole skit and theme song on that 'meat-like substance'...did they sue Monty Python back then?
      http://www.detritus.org/spam/skit.html
      • Re:ick. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Flabby Boohoo (606425)
        The difference there is that the MP skit did not harm or associate Spam with something that everyone hates.

        I bet the Python skit actually increased sales! But I can honestly say that receiving unsolicited email has never given me the craving for their canned meat product.
    • Re:ick. (Score:5, Funny)

      by TexVex (669445) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:15AM (#6349852)
      How 'bout we sidestep the issue by no longer calling junk email "spam". Instead, we can call it "whore mail". That wouldn't violate Hormel in any way at all, would it?
  • seriously? (Score:4, Funny)

    by KaizerWill (240074) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:02AM (#6349650)
    so are we going to change our name for junk email now?

    lets call it McRibs...
  • Little suprise (Score:2, Interesting)

    by greechneb (574646)
    Its not really a suprise that they finally got tired of people using the term spam for unsolicited email. Ask anyone on the street what spam is and over half would say email.

    Not very good for their marketing dept. All that has changed is that now companies are using spam in their names as opposed to just it being a generic term.

    Besides just getting the "dignity" of the name of spam back (what little there is) they also get some publicity, and maybe some cash.
  • Generic? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bloggins02 (468782) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:03AM (#6349662)
    IANAL but...

    Hasn't the term "spam" been rendered generic by now? I don't think Hormel has done anything in the past to protect the trademark against this use. Besides, the last time I read their website it indicated that only the form "SPAM" was trademarked and copyrighted by them.

    Hmmm....

    • Re:Generic? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jeffy124 (453342) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:07AM (#6349730) Homepage Journal
      I thikn you are correct. They even published a statement some years ago saying they were giving up on trying to change. The rationale being that most people knew and were aware of the distinction.

      Slashdot story on their statement:
      http://slashdot.org/articles/01/05/29/0117200.shtm l [slashdot.org]
    • The Hormel group has really been good natured about the whole thing going back to the Monty Python skit and going forward from there. They provide the following page explaining their position:
      http://www.spam.com/ci/ci_in.htm

      I think they might be objecting to combining Spam and Arrest. (Considering what their (Hormel's) product does to the cholestorally challenged they may have cause for complaint. :-D )

      Trademark protection and dilution are certainly a strange area of the law to deal in.
    • Re:Generic? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Blnky (35330) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:07PM (#6350396)
      In slang terms it may be used quite freely as a generic term. However, as a product or service its a different story. A good example of this is jello. It is very often used as a slang term instead of gelatin. Unfortunately, as the rock band "Green Jello" found out, outside of slang usage, companies can and will enforce their trademark. The band was required to change their name and went to "Green Gelatin" instead.
      • Re:Generic? (Score:3, Informative)

        by karnal (22275)
        I remember that... but didn't they change to "Green Jelly"?

        I actually remember seeing one of their album covers at a radio station prior to the name change... kind of interesting....
  • by earthforce_1 (454968) <earthforce_1NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:03AM (#6349663) Journal

    IANAL disclaimer - The judge will probably rule there is no confusion between the two. Spam has taken on an entirely different generic meaning w.r.t email, that is unlikely to be confused with the popular luncheon meat. Hormel should have enforced their trademark much earler to stop the alternative usage of the word "Spam". This is almost certainly too little, too late.
    • by dpille (547949) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @01:52PM (#6351399)
      Okay, first, there's no "judge". The article (obliquely) refers to the fact that Hormel is trying to cancel Spam Arrest's trademark applications. See, for instance, this record [uspto.gov] at the USPTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. These are administrative hearings with a panel and are not binding on any federal court. They are merely binding on the USPTO's own registration process.

      Second, people are misunderstanding genericism. The key is whether the term at issue is generic for the goods or services for which the term is registered. Thus, you can't register PENCIL for pencils, but you sure can for vacuum cleaners. Whether the term is generic for other goods and services is not strictly relevant- one of the strongest trademarks in the world for beverages happens to be generic for the residue of coal left after destructive distillation. You all hear stories about THERMOS becoming generic for thermally-insulated bottles though failure to educate the public that THERMOS was a brand of thermally-insulated bottles, but now you're talking about the equivalent of astronomer's frequent references to exploding stars rendering a car brand generic- it just doesn't work that way.

      Hormel should have enforced their trademark much earler to stop the alternative usage of the word

      This line of thought is also way off for the same kind of reasons. When exactly did Hormel begin allowing use of the term SPAM by others to distinguish the source of goods or services? When did they begin ignore use of the term SPAM for *any item purchasable by a consumer*? They didn't.

      So, nonetheless, I assume someone will persist in believing SPAM has somehow lost trademark significance through reference to unwanted email. Even if this were the case, it's yet another argument in favor of cancelling Spam Arrest's trademark registrations- Spam Arrest certainly use a generic term in their name if either of the parties do.

      I can't believe Hormel will have any trouble convincing the TTAB that their mark is famous and entitled to a wide berth on the trademark register. Too well known, too well enforced, too long a period of time in use....
  • Are they serious? Trying to protect the "good name" of spam! ROFL!!!
  • by swordboy (472941) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:03AM (#6349669) Journal
    Isn't one supposed to check [uspto.gov] for this kind of stuff prior to creation? I just started my own business and spent significant time on the patent/trademark website.
  • So are they going to go after Monty Python as well? :)

  • Hormel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cthefuture (665326) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:03AM (#6349675)
    They have traditionally been pretty good about letting people use the term Spam.

    I have to agree with them on this. Anything like a company named "Spam Arrest" or "Fuck Spam, Inc." or something like that could be considered slander. I mean, if you ignore the e-mail side of things, it sounds like a company set up to make money by telling people how bad Spam ham is.
  • Oh for pete's sake (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Tyro (247333) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:04AM (#6349678)
    Don't they realize that this makes their trademark MORE commonly known, and probably increases their sales?

    Now honestly, apart from college students (and most of them probably prefer Ramen noodles), who actually eats spam regularly? Don't they realize that people might hear the term, see their can on the grocery store shelf and think "oh, so that's what it was named for... wonder what it tastes like?"

    You'd think they'd appreciate the free publicity.
    • by nacturation (646836) <nacturation AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:11PM (#6350449) Journal
      Now honestly, apart from college students (and most of them probably prefer Ramen noodles), who actually eats spam regularly? Don't they realize that people might hear the term, see their can on the grocery store shelf and think "oh, so that's what it was named for... wonder what it tastes like?"

      I think the last thing I want to do after receiving spam about a farm girl fucking a horse with a 31 inch cock is to go and eat an unknown meat product.

  • Common Usage (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Thorofin (647823)
    Hopefully they won't win because the name spam has gone from a trademark into common usage. IANAL, but had they sued the first few people to use spam to describe unsolicited email, they might have had a chance.
  • trademark law regards names in an area. for example, hormel has a fair and legit claim to spam as a trade name for a food product. Spam as a digital internet-like concept is entirely unrelated to Spam the luncheon meat. If they win this, lots of domain name disputes will get even more retarded.
  • by AssFace (118098) <stenz77NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:04AM (#6349688) Homepage Journal
    They could get around it the same way that I used to avoid reserved words in programming - use all swears.
    Instead of "Spam Arrest" they could just change their names to "Fuck Shitters" or "Explosive Ass Mansion" (I am fully aware that the second example only had one swear in it, and two non-swear words - but I thought it sounded like a good company name - or a new ride at Disney).

    Another option would be to just flail on the keyboard and then do a quick search to see if that is anywhere on the net - if not - bingo!
    For instance, they could go with the name ";oasdguos " which might not be as easy to remember, but I think over time it could grow on you like a cancerous tumor (which could also be their new ad campaign).

    If all else fails, we can just resort to all numbers.
    Their new name, from this day forward would be "Comapny 16843329" - not to be confused with 16843328 or 16843330 which make coat hangers and tampons respectively.

    I should probably not say anymore since as it is, I've said too much and feel that perhaps a consulting fee is in order.
  • A page on their website [spam.com] says that they are OK with people using the word "spam," as long as they don't use it in all caps.
    From the site:
    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.

    This seems like a break from that policy.
  • Using spam as slang (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmuth (14143) <doug,muth+slashdot&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:06AM (#6349711) Homepage Journal
    >On its Web site, Hormel states that it does not object to use of
    >the word spam as a "slang term," as long as pictures of the product
    >are not used with such references.

    This is true. There used to be an entry in the FAQ on Hormel's website saying that they were cool with people using the term "spam" to refer to Unsolicted Commercial E-mail (UCE). They only asked that folks did not use "SPAM" in all uppercase.

    From reading the article, I gather that Hormel is concerned that another commercial entity with the word "spam" in its trademark could cause confusion with the luncheon meat. (at least among computer-illiterate people)

    Whether those concerns are enough to stop Spam Arrest from using the word 'spam' is something that will probably be determined after a legal battle.
  • They have a MUSEUM? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gherald (682277) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:06AM (#6349712) Journal
    For the love of SPAM [hormel.com]

    Oh my...
  • Doesn't it stand for:

    Super
    Premium
    Anti
    Meat
  • I've wondered about this for a long time. Spam has been around for...ever I guess. Sorry if I don't know the entire history of spam. Anyway, for the past ten years or so, their product name got swiped to mean 'a whole lot of crap.'

    Not just junk email, but pretty much any sort of annoying repeatitive garbage. I've been IRC and people complain about "chat spam." The next big problem for cell phone users is SMS spam. The connotation is always negative. If I were Hormel, that would really piss me off.
  • by wowbagger (69688) * on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:08AM (#6349741) Homepage Journal
    No, Hormel is not suing Spamarrest over their name.

    Hormel is opposing Spamarrest's attempt to TRADEMARK "Spamarrest".

    It is clearly stated in the article. The /. editors did not read the article, just the submission, which was TOTALLY WRONG!

    Hormel has been pretty damn cool about the whole "spam as email/SPAM as meat" thing - go look at their web page [spam.com] about it.

  • Let's call Spam "DLM" (digital luncheon meat) from now on, avoid the lawsuits!
  • by mikeophile (647318) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:10AM (#6349782)
    The makers of Underwood Devilled Ham has today leveled a lawsuit at the Devil over concern that the public might become confused or think that Underwood endorses the Devil and His products.

    Spokesdemons for the Devil scoffed at the allegations, saying "Good luck finding an attorney who isn't already on the Dark Lord's retainer."

  • Commonly used term (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Datoyminaytah (550912) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:12AM (#6349806)
    The term "SPAM", when used to refer to "unsolicited commercial electronic mail", is so commonly used that it is even used in the names of laws, such as the "Anti-Spam Act of 2003".

    http://www.spamlaws.com/federal/108hr2515.html

    Will Hormel also sue the U.S. Congress?

    While I'm all for companies defending their trademarks, I think Hormel has waited just a LITTLE bit too long on this one.
  • Etymology (Score:5, Informative)

    by Scurrility Extempore (685637) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:13AM (#6349824)
    For anyone interested on how Spam (the meat product) got its name, here's an excerpt from an ABCNEWS [go.com] article about it:

    1937: Hormel rolls out its first can of a luncheon meat it calls Spiced Ham. Kenneth Daigneau. An actor and friend of the Hormel family, wins $100 in a contest to name the pink product. The winner combined the "sp" with the "am" and got Spam.

  • NO NO, Not the Name (Score:3, Informative)

    by IPFreely (47576) <mark@mwiley.org> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:15AM (#6349850) Homepage Journal
    Hormel does not care if they use the word "SPAM".(or at one point did not care. They may have changed their minds.) The problem is that a lot of sites/groups (Slashdot included) use a picture of the Hormel Spam Can as a symbol of the email spam. That's what they are mad about. That is very much Hormel's property and is definitely not something that can be confused with email.
    (This couresy of NRP this morning. The article seems a bit thin on the subject. YMMV)
  • by BurritoWarrior (90481) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:28AM (#6349992)
    Start calling unsolicited commercial email Firebird.
  • by Irvu (248207) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:38AM (#6350118)
    But if this attempt goes as badly as their lawsuit against Jim Henson Productions (creators of the Muppets) then they probably won't get far.

    The film Muppet Treasure Island includes a character named "spaam" the leader of the Pig Pirates. Hormel got an injusnction against the use of their name but then lost it Ultimately the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the U.S. concluded:
    " Henson's use of the name "Spa'am" is simply another in a long line of Muppet lampoons. Moreover, this Muppet brand of humor is widely recognized and enjoyed. Thus, consumers of Henson's merchandise, all of which will display the words "Muppet Treasure Island," are likely to see the name "Spa'am" as the joke it was intended to be."


    See here [harvard.edu] here [geocities.com] and good o'l google [google.com] for more info.

    Lest we forget Hormel does sell Spam brand Boxer Shorts [spamgift.com] in the Adult Apparel [spamgift.com] section of their spamgifts catologue.
  • by cigarky (89075) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:45AM (#6350184)
    Hormel are not being "bad guys" here. Hormel is not trying to keep you from using the word spam in your private conversations. They do want to keep another proprietary, for-profit company from holding a trademark on a name they they have used, developed and marketed to the public for many years. If they do not show due diligence in protecting their trademark, they lose right to that trademark. Even if the court rules against them, they made due diligence to protect the trademark. I think Hormel has been pretty cool about letting people use the term and has not been hassling people but must make efforts to protect their trademark.
  • Sagan (Score:5, Funny)

    by jhampson (580482) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:48AM (#6350212)
    Reminds me of the "Sagan" chip that was in a prototype Amiga. Engineers had meant it as homage to the great Carl Sagan. Well, ol' Carl demanded payment for his name. They renamed it instead, to BHA. When Sagan found out it stood for "Butt-headed Astronomer", he sued them saying that BHA was "defamatory". He lost the case.
  • by sacrilicious (316896) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @11:57AM (#6350288) Homepage
    Back around 1994 Apple was developing a crop of new machines, which all had code names internally. One of them was code-named "Carl Sagan". Carl Sagan found out about this and made angry noise (perhaps he should have bought a higher grade of weed to smoke) so the Apple hardware team renamed the project "Butthead Astronomer".

    Maybe we could re-coin "spam" something like "litigious sh*tloaf".

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:18PM (#6350542) Homepage Journal
    Lets all show up in the courthouse dressed as vikings. Whenever one of the attourneys says the word "spam" we can all burst into song! "Spamspamspamspam spamspamspamspam..."
  • by cenonce (597067) <anthony_t@NOSPaM.mac.com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:48PM (#6350826)

    Hormel tried this before with Jim Henson productions. Can't quite remember which Muppet movie, but one of the characters' name was Spam and he was of course, a pig.

    Hormel got all bent out of shape, took Henson to court alleging causes of action under both copyright and trademark law. Henson claimed "fair use" and won.

    This is a little different in the sense that it is a straight trademark dilution claim. Now before everybody starts posting that "it's not confusing! One's computer spam and one's pork left-overs squished in a can", dilution is not about confusion... it is about loss of goodwill and damage to reputation as a cause of the defendant's use of the mark and it applies to "famous marks".

    The interesting issue is that companies in the computer field who use "Spam" in the name are doing so because the public coined the term Spam to mean "junk mail". They didn't give it's negative connotation!

    IMHO, Hormel should not be allowed to prohibit a company from using a generic term in its own industry especially when it is Hormel's responsibility to, from the outset, make it abundantly clear to the public that Spam should not be used to describe "junk mail". There failure to do so bars any recovery (AFAIC).

    -Anthony
  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @01:10PM (#6351044) Journal
    "substantial goodwill and good reputation" of their meat product

    I wish my meat had substantial goodwill and good reputation.

    I'm sorry, but I simply could not resist. I will now stoically accept my modding down like a man.

  • by hndrcks (39873) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @03:18PM (#6352155) Homepage
    Our product isn't called 'Spam Arrest'.

    It's called 'Spa - Mar - Rest'. Cleans those nasty heelmarks off your Jacuzzi - like magic!

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