Web firm tastes success on spam

June 16, 2006

A small Welsh computer company has won the right to include the word “spam” in a trademark, despite objections from a multi-national food corporation.

NetBop Technologies developed a filter it called “bopspam” aimed at combating unwanted e-mails, known as spam.

But US-based Hormel Foods, which makes the meat product of the same name, initially objected to its registration.

Experts believe the Swansea company is the first in Europe to secure such a written trademark using the word spam.

NetBop’s managing director, Andrew Downie, 24, said his company first applied to register the name in October 2004.

Hormel’s trademark lawyers opposed the application, but at a preliminary hearing the Patent Office indicated it would rule in NetBop’s favour.

Hormel dropped its opposition and NetBop has finally received its trademark certificate.

Other firms can use the word spam pictorially – in their logos but not in the title of their products.

Mr Downie, a graduate of the city’s university, said: “We are ecstatic with the outcome as for a while it did look like we would have to change the product name.

“We would never have dreamed there would be such an issue with securing a name which contains a word used in people’s everyday lives.”

He said if NetBop had lost it would have had a “devastating” effect on the business as bopspam was gaining recognition in the computer world.

Swansea-based registered trademark and patent attorney Hedley Austin, of Chapman Molony, said many other people and companies had made applications to use the word.

“They (NetBop) appear to be the first to secure registration of a UK or European text trademark registration containing the word,” he added.

“The word spam has taken on a whole new meaning because of the advent of the internet and emails.

“They (Hormel Foods) have had the rights for years and years. They are a very old and established company.

“NetBop has done very well. It is unusual for a small company to be able to conduct their own negotiations when faced by the resources of a multi-national company such as Hormel and achieve a clearly satisfactory result.”

No-one at Hormel was immediately available for comment.