Hormel Foods, LLC has filed a complaint in a Minnesota federal court against a company that also makes a canned meat product, alleging that the company is infringing Hormel’s SPAM® trademark, which consists of yellow lettering on a blue background. Hormel Foods, LLC v. Zwanenberg Food Group (USA), Inc., No. __ (D. Minn., filed March 30, 2011). The defendant allegedly began selling its product in October 2010 in a can with yellow labeling on a blue background. When Hormel sent a cease and desist letter, the company allegedly switched to a new design, white on a red background. Thereafter, the defendant resumed using the yellow on blue background label for products shipped to the Philippines and Japan.

According to the complaint, Hormel has produced 7 billion cans of SPAM® products, making the brand “a famous American icon. Its timelessness has earned it roles in films, a fan club and a highly coveted place in the Smithsonian. The SPAM® products even have a dedicated museum—the SPAM Museum—which opened in September 2001.”

Hormel alleges federal common law trademark and trade dress infringement, trademark and trade dress dilution, unfair competition, violation of state deceptive trade practices law, and breach of contract. Apparently, the companies entered a contract in 2008 under which the defendant manufactured luncheon meat and chopped pork for Hormel Foods and agreed that it would not sell products with “labels or packaging that may, in Hormel Foods’ reasonable judgment, be confusingly similar to the labels or packaging of any Products or any other products sold by Hormel Foods.” Hormel seeks injunctive relief, an accounting, actual and treble damages, the destruction of all infringing materials, attorney’s fees, and costs.

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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