I’ll Spork You, You Foon

The time has come ladies and germs, for the post about sporks/foons. I have thought long and hard about the right time to put this out there, and that time is now. And now, for you viewing pleasures…. drum roll… the post about SPORKS!!

A spork or a foon is a hybrid form of cutlery taking the form of a spoon-like shallow scoop with three or four for tines. Spork-like utensils, such as the terrapin fork or ice cream fork, have been manufactured since the late 19th century;  patents for spork-like designs date back to at least 1874, and the word “spork” was registered as a trademark in the US and the UK decades later. They are used by fast food restaurants, schools, prisons, the military, and backpackers.

The spork is a portmanteau word combining spoon and fork. Similarly, the word foon is a blend of fork and spoon. The word “spork” appeared in the 1909 supplement to the Century Dictionary, where it was described as a trade name and “a ‘portmanteau-word’ applied to a long, slender spoon having, at the end of the bowl, projections resembling the tines of a fork”

Sporks and Foons! Sporks and Foons!

In the US, patents for sporks and proto-sporks have been issued. A combined spoon, fork, and knife closely resembling the modern spork was invented by Samuel W. Francis and issued US Patent 147,119 in February 1874. Other early patents predating the modern spork include US Patent 904,553, for a “cutting spoon”, granted on November 24, 1908 to Harry L. McCoy and US Patent 1,044,869, for a spoon with a tined edge, granted to Frank Emmenegger in November 1912. Many of these inventions predated the use of the term “spork” and thus may be considered proto-sporks. Given this significant prior art, the basic concept of combining aspects of a spoon and fork is well established; more modern patents have limited themselves to the specific implementation and appearance of the spork. These design patents do not prevent anyone from designing and manufacturing a different version of a spork. Examples of modern US design patents for sporks include patent number D247,153 issued in February 1978 and patent D388,664 issued in January 1998.

The word spork originated in the early 20th century to describe such devices. According to a December 20, 1952 New York Times article, Hyde W. Ballard of Westown, Pennsylvania filed an application to register “Spork” as a trademark  for a combination spoon and fork made of stainless steel, although there is no longer any record of this application at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The Van Brode Milling Company subsequently registered SPORK for a combination plastic spoon, fork and knife at the USPTO on October 27, 1970, but abandoned the registration several years later. The word Spork accompanied by a stylised design is registered in the US in relation to hand tools, in the name of a UK based individual (reg. no. 2514381).

In the UK, Plastico Limited registered Spork as a trademark in relation to cutlery with effect from September 18, 1975 (reg. no. 1052291). The registration is now in the name of another company and remains in force. The trademark is also registered in the UK in relation to gardening tools in the name of the same UK based individual who owns US trademark registration no. 2514381. Another British company, Lifeventure, sells titanium and plastic versions using the name “Forkspoon”.

A Japanese spork

In an unsuccessful  lawsuit in 1999 where the company Regalzone sought to invalidate Plastico Limited’s UK registration for Spork, Justice Neuberger wrote: “I accept that the word Spork involves a clever idea of making a single word by eliding beginning of the word spoon and the end of the word fork. The fact that it is clever and the fact that the meaning of Spork could be said to be obvious once it is explained does not mean that it is obvious what it is. Indeed, I would have thought that if one asked a person in 1975 what a Spork was, he or she would not know. If one then explained what it was and how the word came about, one might then be told that it was obvious or that it was clever.”

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did, well maybe not quite as much as I did. Let me know what you think!

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