Hormel foods, the US maker of canned spam, is mounting a legal challenge against anti-spam company SpamArrest's use of the word spam -- claiming trademark infringement.
At the centre of the dispute is a trademark registered by Seattle-based SpamArrest in early 2002. The company was granted a trademark for "computer software, namely, software designed to eliminate unsolicited commercial electronic mail".
However, canned-meat maker Hormel is challenging that trademark and a second trademark has been challenged before it was even granted.
Brian Cartmell, president and chief executive of SpamArrest, said in a statement: "Spam is a common term describing unsolicited commercial email (UCE) and even Hormel says on its own Web site: 'We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE, although we do object to the use of our product image in association with that term'."
However, it appears Hormel does object and it is prepared to let its lawyers voice that objection.
"Hormel is acting like a corporate cry baby," added Cartmell. "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."
Seattle attorney Derek A Newman, who represents SpamArrest, 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. We are not claiming the right to use the generic term spam alone but we will protect our company name and the brand of our product."
The cases are pending before the Trademark Trial and Appellate Board. Hearings have not yet been scheduled.
At the time of writing Hormel had not returned a request for comment.