We're up to our eyeballs in abbreviations. The pace of social and technological change puts pressure on language, requiring the rapid coining of new words for new objects and ideas. Sometimes these new words are created by repurposing an old word or by borrowing from another language, but often they are abbreviations of other words. Some abbreviations have staying power, while some disappear soon after they're created. The origin of still others is gradually forgotten as they become ordinary words. Sometimes an odd thing happens: an abbreviation is stripped of its origins, not by gradual language change, but by fiat.
Many abbreviations are acronyms, made up of the first letters (or sometimes the first syllables) of the words in a phrase, and pronounced as a word. Think of radar, scuba, or PARC. Because acronyms sound like ordinary words, they're liable to become lexicalized in the minds of speakers who don't know their origins (quick, what's sonar short for?). Other abbreviations are less susceptible to this process because they're still pronounced as individual letters. Think of IBM, CRT, or UN. The pronunciation and orthography of these abbreviations continually reminds speakers that they stand for some longer phrase, even if they don't know what it is (what percentage of the popluation knows what DNA stands for?).
In many cases, abbreviations are the intellectual property (a trademark) of some entity. Occasionally, such entities will decide to do a strange thing: they declare that an abbreviation no longer stands for anything. Despite the cues of its spelling and pronunciation, it is asserted no longer to abbreviate anything. Call it disabbreviation.
The canonical example in the world of technology is SRI International. SRI was originally the Stanford Research Institute, founded in 1946. In 1970, SRI became independent of the University, and it's name ceased officially to refer to Stanford. The SRI FAQ says:
What does SRI stand for? Are you affiliated with Stanford University or the Stanford Research Institute?
SRI International was founded as Stanford Research Institute in 1946 by a group of West Coast industrialists in conjunction with Stanford University. SRI formally separated from the University in 1970, and we changed our name to SRI International in 1977.
This leaves us with the odd word SRI, which sounds like it ought to abbreviate some three-word phrase (note that it's still prounonced ess-are-eye and not sri as in Sri Lanka), but doesn't.
I encountered another example of this recently. AARP (note: no article) was founded in 1958 as the American Association of Retired Persons, but a few years ago (either in 1998 or 1999, I've seen both dates cited), the organization apparently decided it didn't want to be associated only with retired people, so it began to use only the initials as its name. Like SRI, the name AARP still sounds like it ought to be short for something, but officially isn't.
There are other variations on disabbreviation. In 1911, the Standard Oil company was broken up into several smaller regional oil companies. One of them, Standard Oil of New Jersey, even after it was no longer officially Standard Oil, was known for years as Esso (from SO). Eventually the name of the company moved another step further away from the original abbreviation when it was changed to Exxon. (The history of the names of the various Standard Oil descendents and their product lines is actually very complex. Check out this site for much more detail.)
I'm not sure what to make of the process of disabbreviation. On the one hand, organizations can certainly name themselves whatever they like, including strings of meaningless letters (like AAA Roofing, for random example), so we might as well get used to it. On the other hand, there's something uncooperatively contra-Gricean about names like SRI and AARP, and I doubt they're accomplishing the goal of dissociating themselves from their original meanings. Upon first encountering one of them, many people surely notice the pronunciation or orthography and ask, "What does it stand for?" What's the correct answer? "It doesn't stand for anything" seems wrong—they're not random collections letters, after all—so the question remains unanswered. The official answer, "Well, it doesn't stand for anything, but it used to stand for...", also seems unsatisfactory. Now that the asker knows what words used to be associated with the letters, are they supposed to nod their heads and agree to forget their origin? Not likely. In the end, disabbreviation might be able to satisfy lawyers and legislators, but I doubt it will ever be able to erase the original meanings of abbreviations.
[Note that disabbreviation has another pre-existing meaning: taking abbreviations in a text and expanding them. I offer my apologies for appropriating an old word, but consider this entertaining fact: if an abbreviation has been disabbreviated (my meaning) it becomes troublesome for people trying to write disabbreviation (old meaning) systems—should that word be expanded or not?]
[Update: It occurs to me that if the Standard Oil breakup hadn't been 50 years too early, they could have taken a hint from midcentury syntax theory nomenclature, so that instead of the following name progression:
Standard Oil → Esso → Exxon
...they could instead have gone with:
Standard Oil → Extended Standard Oil → Revised Extended Standard Oil.]