October 5, 2006 11:21 AM PDT

Spam maker sees trademark bid canned

Hormel Foods, which owns the trademark for the spiced-ham food product Spam, has failed in its attempt to register "spam" as a European Union-wide trademark when used to designate unsolicited e-mails.

Hormel attempted to register spam as a trademark when used to refer to "services to avoid or suppress unsolicited e-mails" and the "creation and maintenance of computer software; technical consultancy, particularly in combination with network services; (and) providing of expertise, engineering services and technical consulting services (related to junk e-mail)."

Hormel argued in an appeal to the Office of Harmonisation for the Internal Market (OHIM), the EU trademark body, that the general public would not immediately recognize the use of the word spam as pertaining to junk e-mail but would instead associate it with "a kind of spicy ham" food product.

OHIM disagreed and dismissed the appeal. Products aimed at tackling the problem of spam were aimed at IT professionals who would not confuse junk e-mail with the meat product, it maintained. In addition, a Google search returned more hits for spam junk e-mail than for the canned meat, which satisfied OHIM that the word was also in use by the general public to refer to unsolicited mail.

"The most evident meaning of the term spam for the consumers of the services at issue will certainly be 'unsolicited, usually commercial, e-mail sent to a large number of addressees' rather than a designation for canned spicy ham," the OHIM ruling said.

Hormel has made several attempts to wrest the name from generic use, including an advertising campaign in 2004 and attempts to invalidate the Spambuster name in the U.K. High Court in 2005. That court case also failed.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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7 comments

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In Europe SPAM is not known as a food product.
Being from the States but living in Switzerland of course I know
what "SPAM" is.. BUT, if I asked a thousand Swiss what "SPAM" is
99.999% would answer "junk e-mail". I've never meet a Swiss who
knew what "SPAM" is.
Posted by imacpwr (456 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not quite...
It's very well known in the UK (which is part of Yurp even if it's not sure whether it wants to be)
Posted by Jerry Dawson (125 comments )
Link Flag
Only if the UK is not in Europe...
The use of the word spam for junk email is a reference to a Monty Python sketch, which refers to the meat product.
And last I checked, Monty Python was from the UK.
Posted by JoeF2 (1306 comments )
Link Flag
Same is true at my house
We don't consider Spam as food either. :)
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
Spam
The trademark SPAM is just too valuable to Hormel to let the word spam go unchallenged around the world. Yes, it is like butting your head against the dam, but it needs to be done or it allows weakness to creep in on the name SPAM. So... that's my take on the subject.
Posted by jrburr (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Spam Maker See Trademark Bid Canned
The execs at Hormel must be eating too much of their own rancid product. They really need to get a life. "Never get high on your own supply!" Spam is what non-solicited commercial email is called, 4 years now, get used to it!
Posted by thinlizzy151 (1 comment )
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