I seem to clearly remember hearing many years ago that Spam () sued Microsoft (or AOL, or another popular email service at the time) for using the word 'spam' to refer to junk email. They said it was of detriment to their brand.

Searching now, however, I can't find any info about a lawsuit; and only a small amount of information about their dissatisfaction with the matter (although sales purportedly increased afterwards).

What is the true story behind this? Was there a lawsuit or settlement in the 90's?

  • I am removing the term 'Hotmail' from your question because you're referring a popular email service at that time; not narrowed to Microsoft's email service. May 1, 2015 at 7:37

2 Answers 2


The company that makes Spam is called Hormel. I couldn't find any reference to them suing Hotmail, but around 2007 they did sue a company called Spam Arrest that made email filtering software, claiming their trademark was being infringed. They lost. Here is a story from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

There may have been other such lawsuits as well, but this is the one that seems to be most prominently discussed on the Internet.


Nate Eldredge's answer is pretty accurate so far; here are more details.

The popular email service which was target by Hormel Foods Corp (HRL.N), owner of SPAM (food) is Spam Arrest LLC.

Spam Arrest LLC, which is a provider of software and services aimed at stopping email spam, said it won a five-year legal battle against Hormel Foods Corp (HRL.N) to keep its trademark; reuters reported.

A three-judge panel found that Hormel's trademark:

does not extend to computer software for filtering spam.

One additional note, is that hotmail (renamed Outlook) today uses the word "Junk" instead of "Spam".

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