A spork is a hybrid form of cutlery taking the form of a spoon-like shallow scoop with the addition of the tine of a fork (usually three or four). Spork-like utensils have been manufactured since at least the late 1800s; patents for spork-like designs date back to at least 1874 and the word "spork" was registered as a trademark both in the U.S. and the UK decades later. Sporks are offered in both re-usable and disposable form and are quite versatile. They are commonly used by fast food restaurants, prisons, and backpackers.
The word spork is a portmanteau combining the words spoon and fork. 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 are occasionally known as foons. A similar term exists in Finnish: a "luha" (properly "lusikka-haarukka") is a portmanteau word combining the words for "spoon" and "fork" respectively, and is most commonly to issued to conscripts on national service. It should be noted that Finnish luha is not constructed as a spork but has spoon in one end and fork in other and folds at the middle.
Sporks have been mass-manufactured since at least the late 1800s. The Folgate Silver Plate Company of England manufactured one sometime between 1875 and 1900.
In the United States, various patents for sporks and proto-sporks have been issued over the years. 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 of 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 their own version of a spork. Examples of modern US design patents for sporks include patent number D247,153 issued in February of 1978 and patent D388,664 issued in January of 1998.
The word spork originated in the early 1900s to describe such devices. According to a 20 December 1952 New York Times article, Hyde W. Ballard of Westtown, 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 currently registered in the US in relation to hand tools, in the name of a UK based individual (reg. no. 2514381).
In the United Kingdom, Plastico Limited originally registered Spork as a trademark in relation to cutlery with effect from 18 September 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".
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 the end of the word spoon and beginning 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."
The spork is used in a number of fast food restaurants, such as El Pollo Loco, and the Yum! Brands franchises, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell. Sporks have been spotted at many other restaurants and in school cafeterias. Sporks are also available for consumer purchase, and are often found at picnics and similar occasions. Plastic sporks are also common in prisons in the United States, because they are difficult to form into weapons.
Sporks, especially the lighter types, are popular amongst backpackers, as they are smaller and lighter than carrying both a fork and a spoon.
In the United Kingdom many pre-packaged ready-meals, such as salads and pasta dishes, come with a disposable plastic spork.