A landmark legal battle is looming over the use of the word “spam” by companies offering junk email blocking services. Hormel Foods, the makers of the luncheon meat made famous by a Monty Python sketch, is challenging a Seattle-based technology firm that wants to trademark “Spam Arrest” – the name of its software for email users.
Brian Cartmell, president and chief executive of SpamArrest LLC, said: “Hormel is acting like a corporate crybaby and ought to can it.
“Spam is a common term describing unsolicited commercial email. Dozens of companies use the word spam in their legal and commercial names and no one confuses any of us with the Hormel canned meat product.”
But the food company, which produces a wide range of ready meals and meat products, has challenged Spam Arrest’s applications to trademark its own company name. In an objection filed to the US Patent and Trademark Office, Hormel argues it has built up “substantial goodwill and good reputation” for the Spam brand name, which would be damaged by Spam Arrest’s use of the term.
According to a report in today’s Washington Post, the company said that Spam Arrest’s name so closely resembles that of its lunch meat that the public might become confused, or might think that Hormel endorses Spam Arrest’s products.
Seattle attorney Derek Newman, who represents SpamArrest LLC, said: “Inexplicably Hormel is challenging anyone who uses the word spam as part of a trademark.
“Spam has become ubiquitous throughout the world to describe unsolicited commercial email. No company can claim trademark rights on a generic term. SpamArrest is both our corporate name and an arbitrary trademark.