Spam, Spam, Spam, Lawyers, and Spam


Hormel has finally sued someone over the use of their trademarked name Spam as a term to describe unwanted email.

The first thing any judge who gets this case must ask Hormel to do is show any evidence that the population of canned meat buyers at all intersects with the population of Net users. Further, Hormel must show that buyers of its jellied ham by-product regularly confuse the substance with the annoying electronic messages they receive on their personal computing devices. Proof like encasing their laptops in biscuit dough and then baking them.

And a real forward thinker on the bench would note the way Hormel trades on the post-ironic hipness of Spam (the canned meat) clearly imparted by the email association and dismiss the suit outright.

NEXT: Less-Independence Day

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  1. I’m sure Hormel will lose. I’m also equally sure that Hormel knows it. But there have been lots of court decisions in recent years that have allowed weakening of trademarks because the owners of the marks didn’t take sufficient action against people who used the same or similar sounding marks, regardless of the nature of the use. As a result–more lawsuits! Even though the company knows they’ll lose most of them, they have to do it or risk losing their mark altogether.

  2. Or it could just be that if you are a lawyer it is hard to justify your paid existance if you are just sitting around, doing nothing, waiting for something to happen. People notice, and thus reward, activity – and rarely have either the knowledge or resources to actually evaluate the nature of that activity.

    And so the lawyers involved report they are defending Hormel’s intellectual property rights, thus preserving the value of their various intangible properties, and no one will get around to noticing that they did it by filing possibly frivolous lawsuits, or lawsuits which are nothing but publicity stunts or self-justifying wastes of time and money.

    Rational self-interest strikes again!

  3. While doing some legal research on an unrelated matter last week, I came across this explanation for invention of the term “spam” in a judicial opinion:

    “This term is derived from a skit performed on the British television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in which the word “spam” is repeated to the point of absurdity in a restaurant menu.”

    Just thought I’d share.

  4. In high school a bunch of friends and I had a Monty Python party where we ate a bunch of spam.

    Actually, I was the only one who ate it. Everyone else played with it some, carved it into animal shaipes and tried cooking it before deciding it was too disqusting and going out for taco bell.

    There’s something ironic in that I think.

  5. I bet it’s just a publicity stunt, at the core. They get their name in the press and remind the public that Spam, the meat product, still exists aside from spam the email menace.

    It’s a piss poor way to go about it, but they’re probably doing it because it costs less than TV advertising.

  6. Skip:

    You can find a script of the Monty Python sketch at

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