08/31 2005 – What does spam mean to you?
Today I received a cease and decist notice from the intellectual property law firm Merchant & Gould, acting for Hormel Foods, the company that actually owns the trademark SPAM (as in pressed, canned, luncheon meat). If you haven’t ever heard about this rather vicious canned product, you are probably 1) not of anglo-saxian origin, 2) not above 45 years old and 3) not a Monty Python fan.
The lawyer at Merchant & Gould is probably none of the above, and if he is, I really wonder if he could keep a straight face while writing the below letter regarding a t-shirt I’m selling at cafepress.com/stopspam.
We recently became aware of your sale of t-shirts and other goods containing Hormel Foods’ famous and distinctive trademark SPAM opn your website located at [länk3200:cafepress.com/stopspam]. This letter is to notify you that your promotion and sale of clothing and other goods bearing the trademark SPAM infringes on and dilutes Hormel Foods’ trademark rights in its famous trademark SPAM and its family of SPAM marks.
The tradmark SPAM has been used in connection with the sale fo luncheon meat for over sixty-eight years and is a registered trademark of Hormel Foods, LLC, Reg. No. 529,294. The mark is also used on a wide array of other goods. Federal trademark 1,415,969 for ”caps,” Reg. No. 1,338,031 for ”t-shirts,” and Reg. No. 1,985,602 for ”mugs and insulated beverage containers.” Furthermore, Hormel Foods sells over 400 products bearing the SPAM mark and SPAM derivate marks through its website at spamgift.com.
The famous trademark SPAM has been extensively advertised and used by Hormel Foods in interstate and foreign commerce to refer to Hormel Foods’ products and services. As a result, the trademark SPAM are widely known and respected among the public and the public has come to identify Hormel Foods as the sole source of the products and the trademark and federal law protects is as such.
Any unauthorized use of Hormel Foods’ trademarks cannot be accepted. Your promotion and sale of t-shirts, other apparel items and mugs bearing the Hormel Foods’ famous SPAM mark will likely confuse consumers and potential customers that your products are in some way associated with, or sponsored or endorsed by Hormel Foods. Your use also dilutes Hormel Foods’ famous trademark.
Accordingly, we must insist that you immediately cease the promotion and sale of any item bearing Hormel Foods’ trademark SPAM. Please respond to this letter no later than Friday, September 2, 2005, confirming your agreement to cease and desist promoting clothing bearing Hormel Foods’ in its famous trademark.”
Now, how should I react on this letter? Should I maybe answer with a link to Google’s definition of spam? Should I refer them to the endless pages devoted to spam as we all know it? Should I maybe spell out the fact that the letter mentions SPAM while my t-shirt says spam, and not even that but </spam>?
Actually, there seems to not be a coinsidence that the letter spells out SPAM in capital letters. Accoring to Wikipedia’s definition of spam, SPAM is indeed ”a brand of canned meat sold by Hormel” while Spam is ”a comedy sketch involving this meat, which in turn gave rise to … Spam (electronic) – unsolicited bulk electronic messages, such as e-mail spam. Repeated, undesired messages in IRC, MUDs and other Internet chats and games, meant to disrupt normal discussion.” In that sence I actually think I’m on the safe side.
I would have been less surprised if Merchant & Gould had had objections to the collage by Andreas Lindqvist, portraying a can of Windows powered spam that I have re-published elsewhere on this site, or if they had objections to the fact that this site features numerous pages devoted to anti-spam. But a harmless ascii t-shirt?
Right now I’m trying to figure out what to do about it. I’ll need to answer him somehow.
Followup two years later: Well. I never answered him, and never heared anything more about it either. As in most cases when you face a cease and decist notice, it was more words and less action.