After years of court battles over trademark issues related to the name "SPAM," a ruling has been made that consumers don't confuse Hormel's famous meat product with computer software that fights junk mail.
Over the past several years, Hormel filed suits against SPAM ARREST, Yahoo!, Google, and Postini over potential consumer confusion due to use of the term SPAM in and around each company's products.
However, SPAM ARREST became the first company to win the right to trademark its name when a panel of three judges found that Hormel's SPAM meat product fame “does not extend to computer software for filtering spam" and that SPAM ARREST's trademark is “different in connotation and commercial impression” than Hormel’s."
Trademarks are typically issued on a per category basis; a company must specify which categories its trademark is used in. Technically two companies can use nearly identical trademarks as long as use doesn't create consumer confusion. However, lawsuits often arise when one company feels its brand might become damaged when its trademark is used for a dissimilar product or service. Compounding the matter, companies are responsible for defending their trademark from all misuse that is brought to their attention; otherwise they stand the chance of losing subsequent infringement battles.