The Muppet character at the left, which appears in Muppets Treasure Island, provoked what has got to be one of the funniest lawsuits of all time. Hormel Foods Corporation, offended by the character, filed for an injunction against Jim Henson Productions, Inc. When the injunction was granted, Henson appealed the decision in district court and won. Hormel then took the case to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal, which upheld the district court's decision in a ruling whose "Background" and "Discussion" sections make for some of the most hilarious yet dead-serious writing one is ever likely to read. Also check out an erudite commentary on the appelate court's judgement. Hormel apparently decided not to pursue the matter further. Perhaps the company sensed that Henson and Disney have more money (and most certainly better fare) to feed to lawyers than it does.



Hormel also expresses concern that even comic association with an unclean "grotesque" boar will call into question the purity and high quality of its meat product. But the district court found no evidence that Spa'am was unhygienic. At worst, he might be described as "untidy." Moreover, by now Hormel should be inured to any such ridicule. Although SPAM is in fact made from pork shoulder and ham meat, and the name itself supposedly is a portmanteau word for spiced ham, countless jokes have played off the public's unfounded suspicion that SPAM is a product of less than savory ingredients. For example, in one episode of the television cartoon Duckman, Duckman is shown discovering "the secret ingredient to SPAM" as he looks on at "Murray's Incontinent Camel Farm." In a recent newspaper column it was noted that "In one little can, Spam contains the five major food groups: Snouts. Ears. Feet. Tails. Brains." Mike Thomas, Ready ? Set ? No !, The Orlando Sentinel, June 25, 1995, at 30. In view of the more or less humorous takeoffs such as these, one might think Hormel would welcome the association with a genuine source of pork. (Excerpt from the court of appeals judgment.)

Hormel of course has not given up the good fight. It still goes after attempts to dilute its trademark and/or weaken the good name of SPAM.TM For a recent example, click on the SpamCop image at the right.


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