Spam: 'It's a meat,' Hormel insists

Canned ham or junk e-mail? Ad campaign could reclaim the word "spam" for meat product.

Spiced-ham maker Hormel Foods has announced a massive U.K. advertising campaign, in what may be seen as an attempt to separate its flagship "spam" product name from negative associations with unsolicited e-mail.

For the first time, Hormel will advertise on British television screens next week with a campaign that cost 2 million pounds ($3.7 million), according to a report on the BBC.

The ads will feature an array of "typical" British characters--including builders, campers and pantomime actors--all enjoying spam. According to Hormel figures, the U.K. public consumes around $24.5 million worth of spam each year.

But in recent years, Hormel has become increasingly touchy about the use of the word "spam" to describe one of modern society's worst digital menaces.

Last year, antispam company SpamArrest was sued by Hormel for trademark infringement over its use of the word "spam" in its company name.

At the time, Brian Cartmell, CEO of SpamArrest, said: "Hormel is acting like a corporate crybaby. 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 Newman added: "Spam has become ubiquitous throughout the world to describe unsolicited commercial e-mail. No company can claim trademark rights on a generic term."

Will Sturgeon of reported from London.

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