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EU Rejects Spam Maker's Trademark Bid

timothy posted more than 7 years ago | from the how-the-mighty-have-fallen dept.

231

kog777 writes "The producer of the canned pork product Spam has lost a bid to claim the word as a trademark for unsolicited e-mails. EU trademark officials rejected Hormel Foods Corp.'s appeal, dealing the company another setback in its struggle to prevent software companies from using the word 'spam' in their products, a practice it argued was diluting its brand name. The European Office of Trade Marks and Designs, noting that the vast majority of the hits yielded by a Google search for the word made no reference to the food, said that 'the most evident meaning of the term SPAM for the consumers ... will certainly be unsolicited, usually commercial e-mail, rather than a designation for canned spicy ham.'"

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Well.... (5, Interesting)

diersing (679767) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408619)

Are we really using Google to decide such matters? What else could Google decide for us?

Re:Well.... (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408719)

Which meat product is more popular [googlefight.com] ?

Not entirely related but... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16408731)

You would be surprised if I told you how many people I know that make decisions based on the result of a Google Fight. Google has become the fortune teller or the magic 8 ball of our time.

Re:Well.... (4, Insightful)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408751)


indeed, what an obviously self-selected sample set. Asking the _internet_ to tell you what spam is?

I reealize this was a European court and Spam is not popular over there, but imagine what you'd get if you asked, say 100 people as they walked through the canned meats section of a supermarket.

That's about as ridiculous as asking google to tell you what it means on the internet. It's all about context.

I don't think anyone would confuse spam with just email if you invited them over for a nice spam casserole. They'd just tell you they'd rather eat cat feces, which smells the same but tastes slightly better.

Re:Well.... (5, Funny)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408853)

they'd rather eat cat feces, which smells the same but tastes slightly better.

How do you know?

Re:Well.... (5, Funny)

thinsoldier (937530) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409397)

i've had lots of cats in my life
I've seen them all eat poo on many occasions
i've also seen dogs digging in my trash to snack on used kitty litter

i tried feeding spam to 4 of my cats a few years ago, 3 didnt even bother to taste it
1 ate it but threw up about an hour later

Re:Well.... (2, Insightful)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409057)

indeed, what an obviously self-selected sample set. Asking the _internet_ to tell you what spam is?

I reealize this was a European court and Spam is not popular over there, but imagine what you'd get if you asked, say 100 people as they walked through the canned meats section of a supermarket.

In an European supermarket?
Of course you would meet many people that way who are not familiar with internet spam, but the "Hormel spam" is not very well known over here. I guess the definition of spam as unsolicited bulk e-mail would still win out.

This said, the fact that spam is already a generic term among computer users should be reason enough to reject the trademark application as a trademark for unsolicited e-mails. Granting Hormel a trademark for spam as canned meat would still be OK, but that is not what they asked for.

Re:Well.... (1)

ePhil_One (634771) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409731)

Of course you would meet many people that way who are not familiar with internet spam, but the "Hormel spam" is not very well known over here.

Which is surprising, since the name came from a Monty Python sketch that was itself an homage to the English love of the canned meat product, developed during WWII and after when it was the only reliable and healty way to ship meat to the Europeans.

Unfortunatly, almost all canned meat became known as "Spam" to GI's, even if it was awful war profiteering product that Hormel had nothing to do with.

Re:Well.... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409791)

This said, the fact that spam is already a generic term among computer users should be reason enough to reject the trademark application as a trademark for unsolicited e-mails.

Well, that didn't stop Microsoft from trademarking its windowing gui as "Windows", or its disk operating system as "DOS".

Re:Well.... (2, Interesting)

theguyfromsaturn (802938) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409547)

True, but I honestly had never heard of a canned meat named spam until a year and a half ago when I decide to find out where the name of SPAM (unsollicited e-mail) came from. Most of the people I know who never used the net, didn't know what SPAM was period.

Re:Well.... (1)

Skreems (598317) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408827)

That did strike me as a bit odd. It's sort of cherry picking your sample to do an internet search. Of course most web sites are going to use the junk email definition. A better question is, of the large number of people who don't have an internet connection, or even own a computer, how many would use the old definition and how many the new? Get away from the specialized audience and I bet your answer changes significantly.

Re:Well.... (1)

patrixmyth (167599) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409287)

Christopher Walken for President 2008 is the first campaign website for a search on 2008 us president, so I think the selection by Google is a great idea. Instead of the State of Union address, he could do a dance, and we could FINALLY out crazy eyes North Korea's leader.

Re:Well.... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409627)

Well, maybe whether "to google" is a word...

Spam spam spam! (1)

Rgb465 (325668) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408649)

I have a feeling Hormel will soon file suit against the surviving members of Monty Python...

Re:Spam spam spam! (2, Interesting)

El Torico (732160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408721)

Actually, Hormel should thank them. Monty Python and the first person to use the word "spam" to describe bulk e-mail probably did more to make Hormel's canned meat product known to the world than anyone else.

Re:Spam spam spam! (2, Informative)

Raistlin77 (754120) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409545)

Spam has been around since 1937. It was one of the few food sources widely available to the British in World War II (which is what Spam was in reference to in the Monty Python sketch Spam). It did just fine for the 33 years before Monty Python's Spam was first broadcast (1970). I highly doubt Monty Python had anything to do with it's popularity, and certainly neither did any internet abuse related use of the word.

Re:Spam spam spam! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409659)

Maybe, but nobody identifies the word Spam with canned meat. Worse, the word Spam gets a negative notion. Nobody wants Spam. Do you want Spam? No, you have a Spamfilter, you have a Spamblocker and a lot of other products that have 'Spam' in their name and generally mean "getting rid of that unwanted junk".

That's decidedly NOT what you want your product identified with!

Re:Spam spam spam! (1)

Atroxodisse (307053) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409755)

I have a spamblocker. It's called my nose.

Poor Hormel. It's all the fault of those... (4, Funny)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408661)

...damn vikings [google.com] .

Number One (5, Informative)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408679)

The European Office of Trade Marks and Designs, noting that the vast majority of the hits yielded by a Google search for the word made no reference to the food...

SPAM search [google.com]

And what is the first item listed, you ask? Why WWW.SPAM.COM - From Hormel Foods Corporation. Includes history, fan club, and facts. [spam.com] I'm pretty sure Hormel has had to fork over a lot of money to keep them at the top of any search for SPAM, to keep the trademark from being wiped away.

Re:Number One (4, Insightful)

k98sven (324383) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408791)

Seems to me that would be a bad call for Hormel and the EU court, although I suspect the quote here has probably been taken out of context and given undue weight.

Thing is, I see no reason at all for how a trademark could become genericized merely by becoming a common word for something completely different. (Python reference intended)

The point, as I learned it, was that a trademark becomes generic when it becomes the generic term for that product. E.g. "Cola" is a generic term for a certain type of soft drink, but "Coca-Cola" is not.

"Yo-yo" used to be a trademark for a specific kind of spinning toy, but they lost it when it became the generic term for that kind of toy.

"Windows" is a generic term to begin with. But it wasn't (and still isn't) a generic term for operating system software.

Now "Spam" is indeed threatened as a trademark, since people indeed are referring canned corned beef in general as "Spam". But I can't see any relevance in whether people use the same term to refer to unsolicited email or not. It's not like there is any risk the two 'products' would ever be confused.

Re:Number One (4, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409445)

That's not what they were after.

Hormel already have the tradmark for spam the meat product. They wanted the trademark for spam as unsolicited email as well.. The EU courts said no, which seems reasonable to me - that meaning of spam is part of the common language.

It's the same as Microsoft asking a court to give them the trademark to 'Windows' meaning 'pieces of glass in the side of a house'. They wouldn't get it either (well, maybe in a US court, but not in an independent one).

Unless you are from Texas (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409509)

"Cola" is a generic term for a certain type of soft drink, but "Coca-Cola" is not. In Texas all softdrinks are called Coke. Are their settlements for trademark infringement bigger there too?

Isn't ... (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409641)

Now "Spam" is indeed threatened as a trademark, since people indeed are referring canned corned beef in general as "Spam". But I can't see any relevance in whether people use the same term to refer to unsolicited email or not. It's not like there is any risk the two 'products' would ever be confused.


... any publicity supposed to be good publicity? I suppose you could have your self a good little argument about that. Speaking for myself I only found out about Hormel and it's products in the first place when I got curious about the origins of the word "Spam" after the term came to be applied to unsolicited E-mail. If anything people are probably more likely to notice the product in a supermarket shelf because now it sticks out among a slew of other similar products for having the same name as Junk mail. I wonder if they can back up their trademark dilution claim with a reduction in sales?

Re:Number One (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409429)

Seems to me that Hormel has an unquestioned trademark in the realm of canned ham. What they need to do is expand into the realm of unsolicted email such that only their brand of UCE can be referred to as spam. It's a longshot, sure. The other thing they could do is to solve the problem of unsolicited email thus removing spam from the marketplace. Don't ask me how they can solve that problem. If I knew, I'd be rich and popular.

Re:Number One (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16409601)

It's too late, unsolicited email is already called spam. That would be like Microsoft producing a brand of glass coverings for holes in the wall called "Windows." They wouldn't be able to get a trademark on that because that is already the commonly used term.

Trademark defense (3, Funny)

marmoset (3738) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408691)

The next time someone bitches about Apple protecting their iPod trademark, I'm just going to forward them a link to this article.

Re:Trademark defense (2, Interesting)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408905)

Their not trying to protect iPod their trying to to protect pod. Apple shouldn't have picked a common word to trademark in the first place.

Re:Trademark defense (1)

Banner (17158) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409693)

I have to wonder how much of this Hormel really wants to do (going to court and all that) and how much they just think they're obligied to do by the law to protect their trademark in other areas. They had to know going in to this that they didn't have a chance of winning it.

So I have to suspect that they were only there out of fear of what might happen to their brand name in other legal area's if they didn't at least try.

OT But (0)

cordsie (565171) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408711)

Slightly off topic and at the risk of sounding like a troll, I just thought of a big dick joke a la Drew Carey and just had to share: "My dick is so big even the spammers stopped sending me mails."

Re:OT But (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16409135)

*crickets chirping*

So, lemme get this straight . . . (-1)

mmell (832646) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408715)

Hormel, which has owned the "Spam" brand name for decades and has, in fact, actively worked to prevent 'dilution' of their trademarked name (think: "murphy bed", no longer made solely by the Murphy Bed Company) doesn't get to keep their name.

SCO can come along with a license they acquired in the 1990's and lay claim to owning ALL UNIX OS code dating back to the early 1970's, even though UNIX (*NIX) is a hopelessly 'diluted' product name.

TransMeta can sue Intel for alleged IP violations regarding low-power CPU design, even though it seems logical and even inevitable that Intel would've developed such a product on their own if TransMeta had never existed.

Say what you like - I still like Hormel's version of Spam. After all, it's the great original, and no e-mail import from Russia/China/wherever can ever take that away from them.

Re:So, lemme get this straight . . . (5, Informative)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408911)

You've got a serious case of patent == copyright == trademark.

They are not all the same.

The SCO/IBM case is (mainly) about copyright.
The Transmeta/Intel case is about patents.
Hormel's case is about a trademark.

Besides, has Hormel really actively protected their trademark ever since people started using the word "Spam" for unsolicited e-mail? I've only heard about them doing so for the last two, or perhaps three, years.

Re:So, lemme get this straight . . . (1)

Banner (17158) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409765)

Besides, has Hormel really actively protected their trademark ever since people started using the word "Spam" for unsolicited e-mail? I've only heard about them doing so for the last two, or perhaps three, years.


Actually yes, they started fighting this a while back when it came to their attention. I think their first efforts were back in the 90's. The problem then was who do you sue? Everybody who uses the word? (And please, no RIAA jokes!!)

Re:So, lemme get this straight . . . (1)

putch (469506) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408973)

copyrights, patents and trademarks are different. while they all might fall under the umbrella of "intellectual property" they serve different purposes.

IANAL.

but, iirc, SCO is filing patent claim against for misusing specific code that was patented. i could be horribly wrong, I admit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_property [wikipedia.org]

Re:So, lemme get this straight . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16409001)

So let me get this straight, you make vague comparison between 3 cases of unrelated law (trademarks, copyright and patents) in a manner supportive of a question and then fail to ask a question?

Since there was no intentional point to your comment, the unintentional point will have to suffice [gnu.org] . Even although you didn't make direct use the phrase, the grouping is possibly a symptom.

You missed an important point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16409077)

SCO sued IBM over UNIX in US.

Transmeta sued Intel in US.

This decision was made by EU.

Success for SCO and Transmeta is not guaranteed (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409215)

Others have already pointed out the difference between patent, copyright and trademark.

I'd like to add that filing a lawsuit does not guarantee you win. In the case of SCO, it already seems they will suffer a massive defeat (see Groklaw.net ;-). Transmeta may be more successful, if they can show violation of their IP in court.

Re:So, lemme get this straight . . . (3, Informative)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409219)

No, Hormel hasn't been told they "can't keep their name."
They get to keep their trademark on "Spam" as applied to spiced meat in a can.
They just don't get to extend their control to "Spam" as applied to software to stop junk email.
Big difference.

The producer of the canned pork product Spam has lost a bid to claim the word as a trademark for unsolicited e-mails.


Trademark rights are not absolute - you own a mark as applied to a particular type of good.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark [wikipedia.org]

ordering instructions, please (5, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408727)

the most evident meaning of the term SPAM for the consumers ... will certainly be unsolicited, usually commercial e-mail, rather than a designation for canned spicy ham.

I just want to know how to order breakfast correctly. The last time I asked for Spam spam spam spam spam spam ham eggs spam spam spam bacon and spam, I got 6 advertisements for Viagra and Cialis, 3 pleas for extraditing Nigerian capital, an offer to augment my anatomy and blueberry pancakes served with Raspberry syrup and 2 raw quail eggs.

Please help!!

Sincerely,

A Sad Spam Solicitor

Can you keep a worthless trademark? (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408735)

This leads to the question of whether a company should continue to be allowed to claim a trademark word that everyone on the planet uses for something entirely unrelated to that company or its product.

Re:Can you keep a worthless trademark? (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408807)

I suspect Xerox(tm) and Kleenex(tm) would have something to say about it. For more information, try this little piece from Media Literacy Review [uoregon.edu]

Re:Can you keep a worthless trademark? (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409449)

I suspect Xerox(tm) and Kleenex(tm)

Maybe in America, however in the UK the common term is "photocopy/copier" and "tissue"

Re:Can you keep a worthless trademark? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409489)

Ahh but we have Hoover(tm)

Re:Can you keep a worthless trademark? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16408831)

Trademarks only apply within particular markets anyway. If you are talking about food, SPAM means only one thing, Hormel's canned meat product. If you are talking about the internet, SPAM means unsolicited email.

Re:Can you keep a worthless trademark? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409479)

This leads to the question of whether a company should continue to be allowed to claim a trademark word that everyone on the planet uses for something entirely unrelated to that company or its product.

Absolutely. In the field of business in which they operate and no other. That is well established.

Microsoft can't ask glaziers to stop advertising the service of installing new glass in your Windows(tm), or stop someone from selling fishing .NET(tm)s

You're still allowed to play Dodge(tm) ball, or to Ford(tm) rivers.

Unfortunately for Hormel, the word SPAM was initially created to describe their product, it wasn't a common word before that. Then the Python sketch and common usage of it sort of usurped their word. However, both xerox and kleenex have become generic terms over the years, and both trademark holders have been unable to prevent people to use the term. No company could sell a xerox machine or kleenex -- they would have to sell copiers and tissues.

Their trademark can't stop the common public from using the word in anyway they see fit.

Cheers

Stupid question of the day (4, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408745)

"Ultimately, we are trying to avoid the day when the consuming public asks, 'Why would Hormel Foods name its product after junk e-mail?'"

These would be the same people that will ask why makers of glass-that-fits-into-buildings-to-allow-people-to- see-into-other-areas chose to name their product after Microsoft's Operating System?

Get a grip, Hormel.

Re:Stupid question of the day (4, Funny)

El Torico (732160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409039)

Here's another one, "Mercedes, that's an odd name. Why would anyone name their daughter after a car?"

Re:Stupid question of the day (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409743)

Hmmm, I bet that at least one parvenu exists who actually did it this way.

CC.

Re:Stupid question of the day (2, Interesting)

Lazarian (906722) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409055)

I kinda think that even though they lost the suit, it still might have inadvertantly been a way to promote Spam(TM). I cant remember the last time I've ever seen a commercial about it.

It's odd that one of the company's most famous products never seems to get advertised on tv.

(Obviously it'd be useless to get 180Solutions to help them promote it, although it'd be funny if they tried.)

Re:Stupid question of the day (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409667)

What would be the point? Not that many people sit around watching the tube wondering "What sort of canned, processed meat should I buy tonight?", in the case they want canned, processed meat, they go buy Spam, or if they lean that way, some regional variation like Scrapple.

Product name != term for everyday object (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409143)

Spam is a product name, not a general term for something almost every single person has in their home. It's MUCH more common to refer to windows as the glass thing than the software thing. The opposite is true for spam. When was the last time that the spiced meat product usage came up in one of your conversations? When was the last time that the unwanted email usage came up in conversation? I don't eat the spiced meat product, and I don't know anyone that does. Nearly everyone that has an email address gets the unwanted email though, or at least knows someone that does. In other words the crappy email definition is much more widely used than the spiced meat product usage.

I'd say Hormel is in some danger of a generation of kids growing up wondering why Hormel named Spam after crappy email (ok, maybe just the dumb kids). I also think Homel lost this battle long ago. They should give up the battle and admit that they've lost the trademark as far as people including Spam in bulk-email stopping products.

If Hormel was smart, they'd see this as a product opportunity. Use the fact that people are always thinking of your product name. Have a weird ad campaign that associates the two in some funny way. Sponsor some kind of spam email blocking contest. Give away free Spam filtering to anyone that wants it. Sheesh, they own the damn trademark as far as the spiced-meat thing is concerned, start taking advantage of how your product is on the lips of people on a daily basis. The way to fight an association you don't like is to create a new association, not dumb legal tactics.

Here's one... (1)

Lazarian (906722) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409247)

"If Hormel was smart, they'd see this as a product opportunity. Use the fact that people are always thinking of your product name. Have a weird ad campaign that associates the two in some funny way." Spam. Bad for your inbox, good for your lunchbox!

Re:Product name != term for everyday object (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409253)

If Hormel was smart, they'd see this as a product opportunity. Use the fact that people are always thinking of your product name. Have a weird ad campaign that associates the two in some funny way.

They have billboards in Minnesota (where SPAM is manufactured and the SPAM museum is located) which are humerous in nature. Last trip through the god-forsaken state (I'm from Wisconsin), one of them made a reference to the "other" spam...

Re:Product name != term for everyday object (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409277)

Spam the meat really isn't bad.
Hormel I am afraid is going to regret not fighting this sooner. They where pretty reasonable about their trademark and now they are getting nailed.
Frankly I think this is a bad ruling. They just wanted to stop the commercial use of the the word Spam for junk email blockers and such. This seems reasonable to me.

Re:Product name != term for everyday object (1)

Greg Lindahl (37568) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409551)

You're confused about trademarks: they don't give you exclusive use of the word in all ares of life, only in a particular one. So since spicy ham in a can is unlike unwated email, they'd never be able to stop this usage anyway.

It doesn't matter how reasonable their wish is. Trademarks just don't work like that.

As an example of this overall idea, consider Apple vs. the Beatles company Apple, which had trademarked "Apple". Apple was OK using Apple to describe computers, as long as they didn't do music.

Did the EU really find... (2, Insightful)

BlabberMouth (672282) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408785)

that most people do not associate the term spam with the spicy canned meat? I think we are still far away from that actually occurring. They may have a point internationally. However, the term "spam" is still strongly associated with both unsolicited email and the ham product in most English speaking person's minds. That google has more hits for uncolicited email is irrelevant. Nevertheless, I do not think Hormel's mark has been diluted because this use is so completely different that has no real affect on its product.

Re:Did the EU really find... (2, Insightful)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408903)

I thought trademarks were sort of industry-specific anyway. Like how there could be a cartoon called Thunderbirds, and a car called a Thunderbird. Maybe I just don't understand trademarks...

Re:Did the EU really find... (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409019)

Wasn't that cartoon called Thunderhawks?

Re:Did the EU really find... (1)

takotech (648308) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409387)

Thunderbirds was the puppet show that inspired Team America.

Re:Did the EU really find... (1)

bahwi (43111) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409407)

Wait, I thought Thunderbirds was a cartoon about inboxes fighting off spam? Crap, now I'm lost.

Re:Did the EU really find... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16408959)

"that most people do not associate the term spam with the spicy canned meat?"

It isn't suprising that they found out this...

"However, the term "spam" is still strongly associated with both unsolicited email and the ham product in most English speaking person's minds."

I speak English and "spam" means unsolicited email to me and not some meat product. I've never seen "spam" meat product on sale. Perhaps you meant "most *native* English speaking person's minds"?

The population of the EU is about 462 million, while the number of native English speakers is something like 60 million (population of the UK) which is less than 15% of overall EU population. Thus EU's decision makes perfect sense.

Re:Did the EU really find... (1)

MrMr (219533) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409061)

is still strongly associated with both unsolicited email and the ham product in most English speaking person's minds
But that would be about 10% of the population of the EU. For the 90% living outside Britain I would guess that only Monty Python fans will be aware that there is another meaning for the word spam besides unsollicitated bulk email.

Re:Did the EU really find... (1)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409191)

I feel a little uneasy pointing out the bleedingly obvious, but the vast majority of the EU does not speak native English and does not live in England which, according to wiki, is the main consument of spam in the EU. Or do you think it's coincidence that Monty Python, being British, invented the spam sketch? What the online "community" thinks about spam is made evident by a simple google search, and the result here seems very relevant because spam got its new meaning there.

Judges comments seemed odd? (2, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408817)

Based on the judge's comments from the article, the reason Hormel is being denied its claim of trademark dilution is that their trademark is diluted?

Ugh (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16408821)

Hormal Foods created this word in 1937. This would be like telling Xerox that their name can be used somewhere else. While Xerox may be commonly used for any copy machine, Xerox still owns the trademark and other companies cannot put Xerox on their product. The same goes for Kleenex, Coca-Cola (in fact coke invented the word cola, and only lost the trademark due to failing to defend it). This is a crappy ruling.

Re:Ugh (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409567)

No it's like telling xerox that they can't stop someone creating a canned meat product called Xerox.

Trade marks are specific to the trade in which they are used. Otherwise the double glazing salesmen wouldn't be able to sell me windows, and the mcdonalds fish and chip shop down the road would be in real trouble.

Hormel do not product unsolicited commercial email (we hope). They definately weren't the first to do it, and the term is in the common language. They have no rights to a trademark for that use of the word.

Re:Ugh (1)

ebcdic (39948) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409691)

"This would be like telling Xerox that their name can be used somewhere else."

Some day soon, human cloning will be possible. Unscrupulous companies will send round armies of cloned celebrities to try and sell you their products. People will call them xeroxes. Other companies will sell anti-xerox products that detect xeroxes as they come to your door (probably by consulting databases of known-cloned DNA) and hit them with hammers. Xerox will sue these companies, and lose, because no-one would confuse a celebrity-hammering device with a photocopier. This is how it should work, and the ruling is correct.

Other brands (2, Funny)

Bog Standard (743863) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408867)

Well I guess the Coca-Cola Corp now know where they stand should they wish to persue a line in "other" products called coke....

+1 Funny, spelling errors and all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16409221)

Heh. Pursue a "line" indeed.

Captcha = "shakes"

spicy ham??? (2, Funny)

michael_allison (697265) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408879)

since when did Spam become spicy? i've always been aware of its' tempting ham/chicken/various pork products goodness...and who can deny the succulent self juices that the log o' love is wallowing in? i'll never forget that summer when me and young becky atkins had our first taste of the forbidden half-ham/half-buffalo/half-emu pork product...the slimy, meat jello sliding down our chins in the summer sun... but i regress... spam is not spicy, unless you dress it up in something hot and sexy!

Re:spicy ham??? (1)

ThomsonsPier (988872) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409037)

It's always been so:

Spiced

Pork

And dubious

Meat products.

I think that's right...

This ruling is absurd. The trademark on the name has been in place for decades. All the company wants to do is prevent other companies from using it within their own company name, not remove it from the vernacular (which would be nigh-on impossible). Or is a trademark restricted to the indstry in which it was registered? If so, I'm starting Microsoft Sock Conditioners Incorporated.

On a related note, can someone remind me why unsolicited email is called spam anyway? Is it because, like its edible couterpart, nobody likes it?

Re:spicy ham??? (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409305)

Stuff Posing As Meat

Re:spicy ham??? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409599)

Or is a trademark restricted to the indstry in which it was registered? If so, I'm starting Microsoft Sock Conditioners Incorporated.

It is, and there is absolutely nothing to stop you doing that.

Re:spicy ham??? (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409211)

Spiced != spicy. (Spam = Spiced ham)

Spices include other flavor additives including oregano, paprika, thyme, salt, pepper and many many others.

Spicy, on the other hand, implies something that is made with peppers having a non-zero Scoville [wikipedia.org] rating.

Re:spicy ham??? (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409341)

since when did Spam become spicy?

Never. It's original name was "Spiced Ham," but the "spice" it refers to is salt.

I wonder... (1)

olyar (591892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408917)

I wonder how many cans of Spam get bought as gag gifts thanks to all the publicity the product has gotten from the Monty Python skit, and from the name for junk e-mail.

Companies spend all this money trying to get name recognition for their products, but then fail to see the value of the free publicity this kind of thing can get them. I can see being bugged by it if it there was any sort of room for product confusion - like everyone referring to soda as "Coke", but in this case, there's a clear distinction. No one is going to confuse "Spiced Ham" for junk e-mail.

It just goes to show (once again) that corporations really don't get the internet. Just like the Weird Al Story [slashdot.org] a couple of weeks ago. Publicity doesn't have to be bad just because its not on your terms.

/. community the for big corporation? (1)

StateOfTheUnion (762194) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408977)

Actually I think that this is inline with trademark law. Hormel did not act on the use of the word SPAM by the online community until well after the new meaning had become well established. One has to protect trademarks or show significant effort to do so, or the trademark may become public domain. One can argue that "Coke" or "McDonalds" or even "Mickey Mouse" may have more meanings than denoted by trademark, but I believe that these companies have more vigorously protected their trademarks.

Most telling from Hormel's spam site [spam.com]

We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE [Unsolicited Commercial Email), although we do object to the use of the word "spam" as a trademark and 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.
Hormel has chosen not to fight this as agressively as perhaps they should have . . . trademark dilution is a very slippery slope. As the new meaning that is endorsed by the compnay overwhelms the trademarked meaning, the trademark becomes more difficult to protect. While I am not advocating agressive trademark protection and defense, I am not surprised that Hormel is having difficulty.

One can't have it both ways . . . allowing people to misuse or use trademarks in a way that confuses or dilutes the popular meaning and expecting full protection of the trademark. In fact I may get flamebaited modded for this, but I am a bit surprised to see many of the posts from the /. community side with the government protected corporate controlled trademark people instead of the more populist spam definition that grew out the grassroots computer user community.

Perhaps this docile reaction from the /. community is because Hormel chose not to protect their trademark as aggressively as they could have . . . Unfortuately this would be a lesson to corporations. Trademark dilution is something that could happen . . . if they aren't agressive and vigilant.

Re: /. community the for big corporation? (1)

camusflage (65105) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409131)

What is unfortunate in this is that it punishes the company that "does the right thing", in allowing usage of the term to flourish as long as it was all lower case and in no way disparaged the fine products of the Hormel company. Now, they're at risk for losing their trademark for not "defending" it. This will simply encourage companies to go after Mike Rowe Soft, folks using keywords for PPC campaigns, and anything with the word "pod" in it. If you were Apple, and you saw this going down on Hormel, what would you do with anyone using "pod" in conjunction with audio files, video files, or portable music players?

RTFA (3, Insightful)

tygt (792974) | more than 7 years ago | (#16408991)

I haven't seen a properly relevant posting here yet. From TFA:
"has lost a bid to claim the word as a trademark for unsolicited e-mails ... We do not object to use of this slang term to describe (unsolicited commercial e-mail)," the company said on its Web site, "although we do object to the use of the word "spam" as a trademark and to the use of our product image in association with that term."
They don't like the idea of anyone else having "spam" in a trademarked name; they were trying to assert trademark for unsolicited email (and thus be able to protect such a trademark). No doubt, they have a trademark for the (not-so) Spiced Ham, and the EU isn't questioning that. They just denied Spam's request for trademark over spam emails.

a Google search? (1)

dk3nn3dy (722733) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409029)

"The European Office of Trade Marks and Designs, noting that the vast majority of the hits yielded by a Google search for the word made no reference to the food..."

Of course on Google, which is connected to computers via a series of tubes, the most hits were about a computer related issue, but maybe in the real world the statistics would be slightly different... if you do a Google search on asp, you aren't going to find anything about Egyptian snakes.

re: a Google search? (1)

tygt (792974) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409733)

That's because the Egyptian snakes known as asps can't get into the internet's tubes, because those tubes are "filled with enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material."

However:

  • Googling asp gets "about 3,990,000,000".
  • Googling asp egyptian snake gets "about 475,000".
Clearly, if you go through the initial results (google asp), you should find some which mention an Egyptian snake. Eventually. Behind, of course, enormous amounts of material. Though, actually, right next to the "about x,xxx,xxx,xxx results for asp" Google does provide a handy link called [definition] which points right at the snake.

Whatever.

any choice but to defend? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16409083)

from what i've read, hormel is only trying to defend itself against the commercial use of "spam". while there's not going to be any product confusion between spam and software, i don't see that they have much of a choice when it comes to defending their name.

isn't that a key point with trademarks? you have to defend it? once you stop defending it, you are agreeing that anyone can use it and that can bite you back in your own space.

My New Software (2, Interesting)

SafariShane (560870) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409089)

I'm coding a gateway for bill payments. Once ubiquitous, someone we all know might be forced to change his name. I'm calling it, "Bills Gate".

Re:My New Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16409485)

you scared me. at a first sight I had the impression you said "Bill's Gay"...

Hey Hormel! Read THIS NOW! (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409113)

I suggest that your product, no matter how you may percieve it has NEVER been a favorite. Why do you think that the term for unsolicited e-mail uses the "SPAM" name? BECAUSE NO ONE REALLY LIKES SPAM (both the canned meat product and the unsolicited e-mail) TO BEGIN WITH!!!! I would suggest that you consider renaming your product. Do some market studies and find out just how you can rethink things. Hell. Call Steve Jobs! He "thinks different", he could probably help you out of this scrape with insignificance. So here's my take on it.

1. Reinvent yourself as hip, now, happening and totally new. In fact, why don't you "go out of business" and then start up as a new food company selling the same product under a new name, with new packaging and new applications.
2. See if you can hook up with the latest trendy chefs and Food Network folks. If you can get the Iron Chef to feature you as the ingredient of the day, you'll be golden.
3. You might want to thin out the spam formulation and put it in toothpaste tubes as a cracker topping.
4. Or... you could even make "fun time" packs for kids like a Build Your Own Hotdog set where kids fill digestable casings with your meat product, suture it and then cook them for the ultimate meaty experience!
5. A friend and I have also posited the possibility of a new meat based alcohol. In the ever increaing quest to prove manliness by the male segment of society, it should be possible to market it as a proof of manliness to drink your meat-a-hol.

And that's just off the cuff! See. Hire ME as your idea man and I promise that while Spam (the food substance) will be a thing of the past, your new look and feel will propel you into more success than you've EVER experienced in all your years of existence.

(Someone please mail this to Hormel corporate for me. M'kay?)

Re:Hey Hormel! Read THIS NOW! (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409783)

"I suggest that your product, no matter how you may percieve it has NEVER been a favorite."

eno2001, may I introduce you to the states of Alaska and Hawaii? AK and HI, this is eno2001.

Just becuase you and six people you know don't like the stuff doesn't mean there aren't enough people out there that keep buying the stuff for it to continue to be quite profitable. Why would Hormel care about their trademark so much if their food product wasn't profitable enough to justify the expense of these legal actions? Do you see Circuit City going after the DivX people much any more?

The entire point of this recent action by Hormel in the EU was to prevent somebody from trademarking terms like "Spamhaus" or "Spam Assassin" or any other use of the term "Spam" in the trademarked name of a U(C)E-related software or service. As they've stated, Hormel has no real problem with the use of the term "spam" as slang, but they have a problem with having to compete with another trademarked definition of the term. Especially when the canned meat product is (ZOMG1) still selling well.

Trademarks (4, Insightful)

debrain (29228) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409133)

Trademarks are a form of consumer protection. They allow you to buy Kellogg's Corn Flakes and get the product you are expecting, from the maker you presume to make it. The only real corporate protection is relatively incidental, being that it prevents competing and equivalent products from imitating the genuine article. So you have two purposes at work: consumer protection from confusion, and corporate protection from unfair competition arising from imitation.

Does SPAM referring to "unsolicited email" confuse consumers, or misrepresent the corporate's product to unfairly compete? In this case the SPAM trademark applies to a canned meat product. The term is also in general use to refer to unsolicited email. They are separate industries, and consumers are unlikely to confuse unsolicited email with a canned meat product. Similarly, there are no concerns over unfair competition by imitation. Thus there is little harm to the consumer, nor a real concern to the corporation.

Further, the SPAM trademark owners let the term become diluted over the years to the point where it is commonly accepted; had they intervened a decade ago, their arguments would have been stronger. They are likely statutorily obligated to actively protect their trademark rights. Even if not a statutory obligation, failing to protect their rights is prejudicial in the eyes of most courts.

Re:Trademarks (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409411)

Actually Hormel has been pretty consistent in trying to enforce their trademark. They started back when spam was first becoming a popular term for unsolicited bulk e-mail. It's just that most of their efforts have failed on exactly your point: that the public's not likely to confuse e-mail with a processed meat product.

Spam is also an Energy Drink... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16409203)

I like their motto: 'Living on the edge'. True for spammers if you ask me.
check it here: http://www.spam-energydrink.com/ [spam-energydrink.com]

Spam sales are up (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409217)

Whether or not the Spam brand name is being diluted, everything I see [hormel.com] says that sales of SPAM and other Hormel products are up, up, up. Surely name recognition has increased in the last five years, arguably because the word "spam" has become so commonplace.

The Specialty Foods and All Other segments continued their strong performance from the first quarter and the Grocery Products segment reported impressive growth in microwave tray items, HORMEL bacon bits and the SPAM family of products....

The All Other segment improvement in sales and operating profit was driven by the International operating segment. Export sales of the SPAM family of products were up 37 percent and continued improvement from the China operations were the biggest contributors.

Simulated Pieces of Anonymous Mutants (3, Funny)

Irvu (248207) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409231)

Hormel has made a point of suing many of the great defamers of their meat(ish) product. My personal favorite is when they sued Jim Henson for the character Spa'am leader of the Pig Pirates. The judge dismissed the case saying: "The American public can tell the difference between a puppet and a lunchmeat." (see Spam Bobbleheads [wikipedia.org] , Spam Costumes [spamgift.com] and Spam Shorts [spamgift.com] . Spam Underwear has also been sold on occasion but I have yet to find any online.

You can understand why the company puts in so much effort to protect the good name though. After all Spam (Scattered Parts of Anonymous Mammals) is important to many people. Both Hawaii and Alaska [flybynightclub.com] love Spam. As has been noted about Alaska:
Spam® is like Alaska's only Congressman Don Young. Everyone makes fun of him, but he always wins by a landslide even though no one will ever admit voting for him. That's the story with Spam®. Nobody will admit eating it, but somebody is out there buying over 2,000 cans a day in Alaska.


For more tasty info on the Simulated Pieces of Appalling Mutants see The Amazing and Fabulous Spam Site [modernsurf.com] which includes a 300 DPI Scan of SPAM [modernsurf.com]

a href="

  It's funny to see how much effort the company puts into targeting the brand given that Spam is so important to

EU uses Google to decide (1)

zitintheass (1005533) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409373)

No shit, Google pwned again.

This is the commonly accepted distinction: (1, Redundant)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409377)

"SPAM" is junk meat. "Spam" or "spam" is junk email.

On the Internet... (1)

widget54 (888141) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409487)

On the Internet, SPAM fries you!

If it weren't for the e-mails (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409557)

...a lot less persons would know about their product.

A bug-fix is really a... (1)

Resident Netizen (769536) | more than 7 years ago | (#16409761)

So can we start calling bug-fixes BANDAIDS?

Spicy Canned Meat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16409777)

I think the biggest issue is that the judge refered to Spam as a "meat." I think "quasi-digestable meat-flavored puddy." would be more accurate.

Also, remember that the term "spam" was adopted for junk email because of the concept of dropping a can into a fan and it getting splattered everywhere.
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