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Spam Government The Courts Your Rights Online News

Hormel Back on The Spam Offensive 305

Posted by timothy
from the more-like-human-than-ever dept.
Anonymous Howard writes "After an xapparent setback in litigation, Hormel Foods is again pursuing actions against entities and organizations over the 'spam' trademark. According to the web site of DSPAM, an open-source statistical anti-spam filter, "Anti-spam software manufacturers may be in for a rude awakening. Hormel Foods Corporation and Hormel Foods LLC have recently filed for extensions to oppose or to cancel many new and existing spam-related trademarks and are even filing a few technology trademarks of their own. The DSPAM project, a popular open source and freely available spam filtering application, has already received two such notices of opposition from the trademark trial and appeal board. The complete history can be viewed here. This came about a year after the software's user community scrounged up the fee to file for a trademark...""
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Hormel Back on The Spam Offensive

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  • Tough case (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigtallmofo (695287) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @08:59AM (#12604412)
    I understand why Hormel wants to do this. Normally you don't want your product associated with such a negative thing.

    But Spam? Of the people that actually enjoy eating it, would anything dissuade them from doing so? I mean, they're eating gelatinous pig parts. They don't seem like very discerning consumers to me.

  • Lets see... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by thrill12 (711899) * on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:00AM (#12604417) Journal
    Spam Meat [google.com] gives back 701.000 results, whereas

    Spam Mail [google.com] gives back 52 million 200.000 results.

    I think it is clear who loses this case - it's a numbers game...
  • SPAM is yummy. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:14AM (#12604452)
    SPAM is tasty, not the most healthy thing you can eat, but bacon isn't very low fat either.

    The low fat spam is the best tasting, the Turkey spam is an interesting variation on a theme.

    The Hormel company should protect the name of their product.

    If it was called getting 'McDonalded' junk e-mail,
    you betcha McDonald's company would be sueing everybody in sight for misusing their product name...
  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:14AM (#12604453) Journal
    This is worse than a case of trying to close the barn door after the horse has run out.

    This is trying to close the barn door after the horse has run out, gone to the airport, and flown to Australia to play dijeridu in a punk band.

    No way is Hormel ever going to successfully use litigation to stop the popular use of the name of its product to describe UCE. As long as the print media keeps putting quotes around it, all the lawyers in the world won't stop it.
  • Eeeeewwwww! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Futurepower(R) (558542) <MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com> on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:15AM (#12604458) Homepage

    Good question, but a disgusting one. Anyone ever eat Hormel Foods Spam at all? My understanding is that Spam is just a way of selling the fat and scraps that are left after processing other kinds of meat products. That's how spam email got its name; spam email is the least desirable kind of email; Spam meat is the least desirable kind of meat. Whoever named unwanted email "spam" was a communication genius; he gained instant comprehension.

    Hormel Foods might want to think again about involving hundreds of thousands of logically minded people in thinking about their trademark and products. Any company that sells a product like Spam should want to avoid being featured on Slashdot.

    Anyhow, it is too late. The word spam is far more associated now with unwanted email than it is with a meat byproduct. Hormel should have protested more strongly 10 years ago.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:24AM (#12604487)
    I can see their point. They've spent 68 years promoting their product and it's trademark and now some young whippersnappers have come along and linked it to something one wishes to avoid. I'd be pissed too.

    They are also being quite reasonable in requesting that their trademark not be incorporated into other trademarks for association with something one wishes to avoid. It's not the same as Tiger which falls into the category of 'wordmarks'. SPAM was never a word so their argument is much stronger. DSPAM using SPAM is akin to taking someones custom artwork and adding a 'D' in front of it and calling it a different trademark.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:30AM (#12604506)
    Hormel have a trademark on spam, a meat byproduct. Hormel do not have a trademark on spam as unsolicited commercial email.

    If they can't protect their trademark, they lose it. All you have to do is point me towards where the anti-spam vendors are using the word in conjunction with the food industry and I'm right with you.
  • Re:Trademarks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kfg (145172) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:34AM (#12604523)
    You are correct, however, things get a bit more complicated when a company takes the trouble to invent a unique word to be their mark.

    Exxon, Lexus, Infiniti, etc.

    Coining a new word makes the mark stronger, because it begins its life innately attached to the company/product; and nothing else, as opposed to, say, "Bob's Garage."

    Standard Oil even went to considerable trouble and expense to make sure their Exxon mark didn't have negative conotations anywhere in the world.

    If you look down you'll find that Hormel is actually being rather reasonable about the whole thing, given the situation. They're defending their mark, as they must if they don't wish to loose it, but they really just aren't being dickheads about it. They accept that their mark, a word they invented just to be associated with their product, now has a new and second meaning.

    But their concerns that in future people might wonder why they named their potted meat product after junk email are perfectly valid.

    KFG
  • by yotto (590067) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:43AM (#12604560) Homepage
    I've always been impressed with the lighthearted (in a legal sense, I'm sure pirvately they're quite pissed about the whole thing) Hormel has been with the use of their product name in such a negative light. I don't think many companies would take such a view. I mean, Microsoft won't even let you market a product whose name SOUNDS like 'Windows.' I think that Hormel's stand in this case is reasonable.
    /hates both spam and SPAM.
  • by Wonderkid (541329) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:49AM (#12604580) Homepage
    ...historians and/or visiting alien species visiting us in the future after things fall apart for humankind will, when researching the downfall of our species, probably conclude a huge amount of our intellectual, fiscal and human capital/resources were wasted on silly matters such as this and others that seem to make up and take up a lot of people's time in the USA and more so now in the UK. Goddamit, can Hormel just get a life? Sooner individual Americans start to know how to laugh at themselves the better for all of us. It's called self-depreciation.
  • How about CAN-SPAM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 22, 2005 @09:50AM (#12604582)
    They're going to have a hard time suing someone for using SPAM in upper-case since they didn't gripe about the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. I guess suing congress would be a bit difficult.
  • Hormel have lost (Score:3, Insightful)

    by philkerr (180450) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @10:11AM (#12604669) Homepage
    Hormel have lost this battle. First email is in no way associated with the food product they sell. Then they tacitly gave the ok for people to use the term.

    Can't have it both ways.

    I've been targeted for a trademark dispute. Funny thing was the MIDI Manufacturers Association didn't own the trademark they said I breached.

    Take this posturing with a pinch of salt, they have nothing and it is common practice for companies to try it on.
  • by atomic-penguin (100835) <wolfe21 AT marshall DOT edu> on Sunday May 22, 2005 @10:43AM (#12604824) Homepage Journal
    Pork refers to the shoulder in this context. Ham to the hind or rear thigh.
  • Re:Lets see... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theguyfromsaturn (802938) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @10:47AM (#12604842)
    Can't it? I thought that if a trademark became associated with a generic thing it could lose its trademark status. As such, if you can show that people associate spam more readily to the junk e-mail than the meat product, it may just lose its trademark status. Granted, I don't know much on those things and I was only basing my comment on the fact that "Xerox" and "Google" were concerned because people "xerox" documents and "google" terms on the web on a daily basis... Hopefully better informed people will be able to light my bulb.
  • by Everleet (785889) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @11:06AM (#12604919)
    Microsoft won't even let you market a product whose name SOUNDS like 'Windows.'

    Really? What's with all these glass-filled holes in my wall then?

  • by Reziac (43301) * on Sunday May 22, 2005 @11:21AM (#12604966) Homepage Journal
    No, that just means that most of the CALORIES are from fat. This is true of most foods that contain any fat (including butter and veg.oils) at all, because fat is the most caloric-dense ingredient.

    Fat runs around 170 calories per ounce (vs. something like 60 cal/oz for meat).

    So if a 2-ounce serving contains 140 cal. from fat, that means the product is around 20% fat.

    Which is about the same as ordinary hamburger.

    As to changes over the years, pork itself has become a fairly lean meat, so there is less fat in the average processed pig than there was 30 years ago. But the canning process is rather finicky about what can be in the can and still come out at the desired texture, so it's more likely changes in your tastes with maturity that make it seem different. Lots of kids think many things are gross that these same kids gobble wholeheartedly as adults.

  • Re:Eeeeewwwww! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Sunday May 22, 2005 @11:33AM (#12605019) Homepage Journal
    English comedy is only considered bland by those who don't understand it.
  • Re:Duh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 22, 2005 @11:39AM (#12605046)
    It does help the company if they have a made up name, e.g. Xerox or SPAM, as opposed to a common word, e.g. Apple or Windows. The fact that the term for unsolicited email is recognised by pretty much everyone as having been derived from the trademarked name rather than independently arrived at also helps their case immensely. There isn't a 'right' answer though, in the absence of a court decision.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @12:57PM (#12605450) Homepage Journal
    The term is in such wide use now I'd be surprised if a judge didn't rule that the trademark has fallen into common use.

    As for the meat, we used to get it for lunch at a school in Hawaii back in the 70's, which I think constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. However, if you cook it properly it can be OK. You just need to use a method that renders most of the fat out of it, and then discard the fat. They didn't do that in Hawaii heh heh. At least not at my school. Normally I'd say keep that pork fat around for other things, but spam fat is downright nasty IMHO.

  • Re:Eeeeewwwww! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spetiam (671180) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @01:30PM (#12605647) Journal
    My understanding is that Spam is just a way of selling the fat and scraps that are left after processing other kinds of meat products.

    Do you eat hot dogs? What's your understanding of those? :)
  • by Samurai Cat! (15315) on Sunday May 22, 2005 @02:14PM (#12605868) Homepage
    ...specific to whatever industry you're using it in?

    Meaning, all the companies making anti-spam products are NOT in the food industry. They're in the tech industry.

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