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Hormel Foods Corporation, which owns the trademark for spiced ham food product SPAM, has failed in its attempt to register "spam" as an EU-wide trademark when used to designate unsolicited emails.
Hormel attempted to register "spam" as a trademark when used to refer to "services to avoid or suppress unsolicited emails", and the "creation and maintenance of computer software; technical consultancy, particularly in combination with network services; [and] providing of expertise, engineering services and technical consulting services [related to junk email]".
SPAM Maker Sees Trademark Bid Canned [news.zdnet.co.uk]
Hormell doesn't operate in a trade that deals with email products. My understanding is that you need to have a product or have intent to in order to register a trademark.
For exmaple, Microsoft can't register a trademark "Microsoft" for a soft drink beverage class if they don't have a beverage to offer for trade, or the intent to.
To me, it seems like the wanted to register the trademark so they can liscense it out to companies that do work in that trade.
Even if they did start offering an email product, they still wouldn't be eligible, to the best of my understanding, because the word is commonly used and now obvious.
To me it seemed like Hormell had less than pure intents, like their less than pure food stuff.
[edited by: Jeremy_H at 12:05 am (utc) on Oct. 6, 2006]
I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be allowed to use the name Microsoft without their permission though, whatever the product.
Of course it might be different if their name was a word that existed before they did. For example I'm sure it'd be possible to sell a beverage called "Amazon" without worrying about Amazon.com's lawyers.
The trouble is the word "Spam" didn't exist before the company that makes spam meat products invented it.