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Hormel, the manufacturer of SPAM, is stepping up its effort to reclaim 'spam' from its association with unsolicited email via a £2m ad campaign. A five-week ad push reminding over-45s that canned spam meat is still available launches in the UK next week, the BBC reports. The campaign seeks to promote British sales of the pork, ham meat, salt and water brick, compressed into an eccentrically shape tin, which, astonishingly, reached an all-time high last year.

TV ads will feature a range of Brits, "including builders, campers and pantomime performers", feasting on spam (are they mad? - ed). Hormel is sensitive about the term spam becoming associated with the junk mail menace rather than its products; and the campaign is one of a series of moves it has made to reclaim its trademark from its association with penis pill purveyors.

In June 2003 Hormel sued anti-spam firm Spam Arrest over alleged trademark infringement because it of the use of the word "spam" in the firm's name. Self-styled "Spam King" Scott Richter's plans to market a line of spam-branded clothing also triggered a legal action by Hormel. Hormel doesn't object to the slang term "spam" to describe unsolicited commercial email but it object to the use of the word "spam" as a trademark or the use of images of its products in connection with junk mail. Hormel wants people to recognise SPAM - as referring to its product - while allowing that spam (all lower case) can be used to describe junk mail.

Hard though it is for Hormel to stomach, such subtleties will fly over most people's heads. Ultimately, Hormel is on a hiding to nothing. When even legislation (e.g. the CAN-SPAM Act) uses the word spam as a generic term for unsolicited commercial email it is time to concede that a meaning, whether desirable or not, has become ingrained in the language. ®

Related stories

'Spam King' Richter get legal roasting
Junk mail from MS: whose spam is it anyway?
US giants move to can spammers
CAN-SPAM means we can spam

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