Saturday, June 19, 2004

"Spam King" smacked by Hormel

Scott Richter, the president of OptInRealBig, is known as the "spam king" (even though he's only the world's third biggest spammer, according to spamhaus). You have almost certainly received email from this man before. OptInRealBig has a pretty professional looking website for a company that sells penis enlargement pills, it seems strange to me that Richter would even try to appear on the up and up. Then again "his 28-employee company, OptInRealBig, clears $2 million in sales each month. He drives a Lexus convertible and a Lexus SUV, owns a half-million-dollar home outside Denver..."

Richter and some of his associates were recently sued by the New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer:

With cooperation from Microsoft, the New York Attorney General's Office tracked these e-mail messages to identify separate marketing campaigns that passed through 514 IP addresses around the world. The investigation identified Richter in Colorado and his partners in Washington, Texas and New York as responsible for the campaigns.

They also determined that the e-mail messages were developed and sent in violation of the law. Some appeared to come from a foreign government's defense ministry, others from a hospital, and still more from elementary and high schools. According to the lawsuits, those spam e-mail messages used other people's sender names, false subject lines, fake server names, inaccurate and misrepresented sender addresses, or obscured transmission paths, all in violation of New York and Washington state law.

Recently Richter unveiled a "Spam King" clothing line and was promptly threatened by Hormel, the makers of SPAM the pork product "food." Hormel makes their position clear on the SPAM website:

You've probably seen, heard or even used the term "spamming" to refer to the act of sending unsolicited commercial email (UCE), or "spam" to refer to the UCE itself. Following is our position on the relationship between UCE and our trademark SPAM.

Use of the term "spam" was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit in which our SPAM 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.

Note that one of the first commercial spammings was committed by attorneys Canter and Siegel in 1994 to advertise their immigration law services. Surprised?

More articles here and here, thanks to The Trademark Blog for pointing out the recent lawsuit.


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