US food manufacturer Hormel Foods has failed to stop the use of the word ‘spam’ to describe unsolicited email communication, after the European Office of Trademarks and Designs rejected its bid.
Hormel, the producer of the Spam canned meat brand, had claimed the use of the word in this context was diluting its brand name.
The trademark authority ruled that for consumers the most evident meaning for the word spam will be unsolicited emails, not the name of a canned ham product.
Hormel said it does not oppose the use of the slang word to describe junk email but it is opposed to companies’ attempts to trademark the word ‘spam’.
Hormel coined the product name in 1937 as an amalgamation of spiced ham. The use of the term to describe unwanted email came from a 1970s Monty Python’s Flying Circus comedy sketch where Vikings attending a dinner repeatedly chanted ‘Spam! Spam! Spam!’ to drown out a conversation.
Despite an obvious embrace of the popular culture reference by promoting the Spamalot musical based on Monty Python’s work, Hormel has been far less positive towards businesses’ incorporation of the word into their product names.