Hormel fights to defend Spam name

Hormel Foods has filed two legal challenges with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking to prevent Spam Arrest, a Seattle software company, from using the Spam name Hormel has used for decades on its canned meat.

The trouble began about six months ago when Spam Arrest, which specializes in blocking junk e-mail or spam, filed papers to trademark its corporate name. Hormel sent the company a warning, telling it to drop its use of Spam, which is trademark-protected. Spam Arrest refused. "If you ask most people on the street, they're going to say junk e-mail as opposed to the luncheon meat as their first description of what spam is. I think they're overstepping their bounds," said Brian Cartmell, chief executive of Spam Arrest.

What are Hormel's chances?

Cartmell says his company's use of the word has nothing to do with Hormel's product. Hormel officials disagree, arguing that the company has carefully protected and invested in the brand name. Hormel also argues that use of the name by other companies could potentially harm its business, and that the public could confuse the meat product with the technology company.

Douglas Wood, who practices intellectual property law in New York, estimates Hormel has only a 50-50 chance of prevailing. He points to a recent case involving Victoria's Secret and a male adult novelty shop called Victor's Secret. Victoria's Secret sued, using the trademark infringement argument. But Wood says ultimately the company lost in court.

News source: CNN

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