Given that we work so hard to brand our businesses and maintain brand awareness, I've often wondered what the makers of SPAM® (the canned meat product that I'll admit I've never tried) think of the fact that the name of their product has become synonymous with unsolicited emails and other forms of unscrupulous advertising.
Today I came across this position statement on their website.
Use of the term "spam" was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit in which our SPAM® canned meat product was featured. In this skit, a group of Vikings sang a chorus of "spam, spam, spam . . . " in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy applied because UCE was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet.
We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE, although we do object to the use of the word "spam" as a trademark and to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters.
This slang term, which generically describes UCE, does not affect the strength of our trademark SPAM. In a Federal District Court case involving the famous trademark STAR WARS owned by Lucasfilm Ltd., the Court ruled that the slang term used to refer to the Strategic Defense Initiative did not weaken the trademark and the Court refused to stop its use as a slang term. Other examples of famous trademarks having a different slang meaning include MICKEY MOUSE, to describe something as unsophisticated and CADILLAC, used to denote something as being high quality. It is only when someone attempts to trademark the word "spam" that we object to such use, in order to protect our rights in our famous trademark SPAM. We coined this term in 1937 and it has become a famous trademark. Thus, we don't appreciate it when someone else tries to make money on the goodwill that we created in our trademark or product image, or takes away from the unique and distinctive nature of our famous trademark SPAM.
I'm not sure that I'd take such a generous and understanding position. However, considering that the term "spam" has become so entrenched in the American vernacular, there's no way that they'll ever be able to take control of their trademarked brand again. So I guess it's best that they learn to embrace it.