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American Red Cross Sued For Using a Red Cross 739

Posted by kdawson
from the hard-to-win-a-pissing-match-with-a-saint dept.
Swampash sends us a story that even this community may find hard to believe. Johnson & Johnson, the health-products giant that uses a red cross as its trademark, is suing the American Red Cross, demanding the charity halt its use of the red cross symbol on products it sells to the public. It seems J&J began using the trademark in 1887, 6 years after the Red Cross was formed, but 13 years before the charitable organization was chartered by Congress. Lately the ARC has begun licensing the symbol to third parties to use on fund-raising products such as home emergency kits.
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American Red Cross Sued For Using a Red Cross

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  • I understand... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by techpawn (969834) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:43AM (#20168225) Journal
    You have to defend your trademark or lose it. But, come on this is a dog and pony show they WANT to people to look at J&J products and think "oh! the red cross!"
    • Re:I understand... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:47AM (#20168279)
      I'm just going to go the extra mile and whenever I see a J&J product I'll think, "Oh this product is from the company that sued the ARC. I think I'll go with brand X".
      • by techpawn (969834) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:51AM (#20168317) Journal
        As long as that "X" isn't a red one...
      • Re:I understand... (Score:5, Informative)

        by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:54AM (#20168367)
        This is exactly what I will be doing, at least as much as possible. Unfortunately there are so many J&J products on the market, hell there are a bunch in my house that I did not even know where J&J products. On the bright side, my fiance is a huge fan or organics and natural products, of which I do not think J&J make any. Apparently there is a brand called Method (we get ours at target.. and I hate target...) that has most household and personal cleaners that are all natural (or so my fiance tells me) to replace J&J products..

        ps... this is not a shameless plug, personally, I buy whats cheapest on the shelves.. but I will be looking to avoid any J&J stuff now.
        • Re:I understand... (Score:4, Informative)

          by jerpyro (926071) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:32AM (#20169619)
          They aren't natural, they're just non-toxic. We were using Method too for a while, but then I read that it wasn't actually any better than normal chemicals, it just wouldn't kill you.

          Real hippies use Vinegar and Water ;) Stinks bad, but there's no residue and it isn't harmful at all to you nor the environment.
        • Re:I understand... (Score:5, Informative)

          by griffjon (14945) <GriffJon&gmail,com> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:19AM (#20170181) Homepage Journal
          So no more J&J brands:
                  * Acuvue
                  * Aveeno
                  * Band-Aid
                  * Carefree
                  * Clean & Clear
                  * K-Y
                  * Neutrogena
                  * Rembrandt
                  * Stayfree
                  * Tylenol
                  * Ambi Skin Care
                  * O.B. Tampons
                  * Purpose Skin Care
                  * Reach
                  * RoC Skincare
                  * Monistat
                  * Shower to Shower

          Or products from their 230 subsidiaries:
                  * ALZA Corporation
                  * Animas Corporation
                  * BabyCenter, L.L.C.
                  * Biosense Webster, Inc.
                  * Centocor, Inc.
                  * Cilag
                  * Codman & Shurtleff, Inc.
                  * Cordis Corporation
                  * DePuy, Inc.
                  * Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc.
                  * Ethicon, Inc.
                  * Gynecare
                  * Independence Technology, LLC
                  * Janssen Pharmaceutica
                  * Janssen Pharmaceutica Products, L.P.
                  * Johnson & Johnson, Group of Consumer Companies, Inc.
                  * Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Inc.
                  * Johnson & Johnson - Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals Co.
                  * Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C.
                  * LifeScan, Inc.
                  * McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals
                  * McNeil Nutritionals
                  * Noramco, Inc.
                  * Ortho Biotech Products, L.P.
                  * Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Inc. OCD
                  * Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical
                  * Ortho-Neutrogena (a merge of Neutrogena and Ortho Dermatological)
                  * Personal Products Company
                  * Penaten
                  * Pfizer Consumer
                  * Pharmaceutical Sourcing Group Americas (PSGA)
                  * Pharmaceutical Group Strategic Marketing (PGSM)
                  * Peninsula Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
                  * Scios Inc.
                  * Tasmanian Alkaloids
                  * Therakos, Inc.
                  * Tibotec
                  * Transform Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
                  * Veridex, LLC
                  * Vistakon

          I respect your intentions, but good luck stormin' the castle!
        • A Slight Confusion (Score:5, Informative)

          by beadfulthings (975812) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @12:41PM (#20171463) Journal

          On the bright side, my fiance is a huge fan or organics and natural products, of which I do not think J&J make any. Apparently there is a brand called Method (we get ours at target.. and I hate target...) that has most household and personal cleaners that are all natural (or so my fiance tells me) to replace J&J products..

          Be sure your're not confusing Johnson and Johnson with S.C. Johnson--they are two entirely different companies. S.C. Johnson makes the household cleaning products you're describing--floor wax, kitchen cleaners, window cleaners, plastic storage and trash bags, bug sprays, drain openers. They have a few personal care products such as shaving preparations, but mostly they are a household products company--and a very old one at that. Johnson & Johnson, the company involved in the lawsuit, manufactures personal care and pharmaceutical-type products, baby care stuff, contact lens juice, bandages and antiseptics, etc.

          A boycott sounds like a good idea, but it would be a shame to boycott the wrong company

        • Re:I understand... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Rimbo (139781) <rimbosity&sbcglobal,net> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @03:52PM (#20173951) Homepage Journal
          Re-read the summary. This began because the Red Cross began starting to sell the logo, a logo that they do not own. J&J has every right to complain and be upset about this, and it's a statement of the ridiculousness of modern "intellectual property" law that after 120 years of peaceful coexistence, the Red Cross could provoke this.

          The reason they can do it is not because they have a tenable legal position, but because they know that if they go to trial, most people will have the same knee-jerk reaction you had, and thus they can get away with it.

      • Re:I understand... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pendersempai (625351) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:54AM (#20169093)
        If you'd RTFA, the ARC started enforcing its trademark against all kinds of other products, including nail clippers, humidifiers, sanitary hand lotion, and so on. They did this simply to extort money. Now, J&J is doing the same to the ARC. Turnabout is fair play, no? Or are non-profits permitted to engage in whatever obscene rent-seeking behavior they want just because they're non-profits?
        • Re:I understand... (Score:5, Informative)

          by crontabminusell (995652) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:24AM (#20169481)
          From TFA:

          "After more than a century of strong cooperation in the use of the Red Cross trademark. ... we were very disappointed to find that the American Red Cross started a campaign to license the trademark to several businesses for commercial purposes," Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.

          It said these product include baby mitts, nail clippers, combs, toothbrushes, hand sanitizers and humidifiers.

          The Red Cross said that many of the products in question were part of health and safety kits, and that profits from the sales -- totaling less than $10 million (7.25 million) -- went to boost Red Cross disaster-response efforts.
          They didn't start enforcing their trademark, they starting selling licenses of a trademark for which they didn't have permission to sell licenses. Again, from TFA:

          Johnson & Johnson said it has had exclusive rights to use the trademark on certain commercial products -- including bandages and first-aid cream -- for more than 100 years.

          It contends that the Red Cross is supposed to use the symbol only in connection with nonprofit relief services.
          I suppose it should just come down to whatever (hopefully) written agreement Johnson & Johnson and the American Red Cross have.
      • by phoenixwade (997892) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:57AM (#20169133)

        "I think I'll go with brand X".
        "Love that Joker"........
      • Re:I understand... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:13AM (#20169347)

        I'm just going to go the extra mile and whenever I see a J&J product I'll think, "Oh this product is from the company that sued the ARC. I think I'll go with brand X".
        Huh. I was seeing it the other way around. The Red Cross is *clearly* in the wrong on this one. Their charter is very clear, and J&J has them dead to rights. So I'll probably only buy J&J products for medical gear from now on. They're willing to call out the Red Cross and stand up for what's right, so I'll back 'em for that.
        • Re:I understand... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jythie (914043) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:26AM (#20169529)
          If I had mod points....

          To extend on this line of thought. I could actually see J&J seeing this as a defensive move. If the ARC has been going around and suing companies to make them 'license' their cross, I could EASILY see them going after J&J once they feel confidant enough.

          And any time a non-profit enters the commercial realm, then defends it's actions via 'anyone who tries to hurt us is really just hurting people we help!' one should be very, very cautious and cynical.....
      • Re:I understand... (Score:5, Informative)

        by ehrichweiss (706417) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:54AM (#20170705)
        I posted about this elsewhere already. The ARC isn't what you think it is. A chapter semi-local to me has absolutely no resources to help any of the people in its region because the ARC requires charter dues of around $25,000-$100,000 per year(in return you get to use their name to do fund raising much like the Ronald McDonald House) and this particular chapter only makes about $20,000 *total* over the dues, and that has to pay for any employees and resources to help those in need. You would think the ARC would see that the region is dirt poor and give them a break and maybe even give them some new resources to help out...but you'd be wrong. The people at the head of the ARC seem to only be interested in the Benjamins to the point that my friend who was the head of the local chapter just quit out of disgust. I hope J&J wins.
        • Re:I understand... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2007 @01:32PM (#20172117)
          Well said. The Red Cross isn't what people think. About an hour after I learned my father died from a sudden heart attack and I was a complete basket case, the Red Cross called about organ donation. My wife answered the call, asked the person to give us space, and told her we'd call if we were interested in making the donation. The person started going into very graphic detail about decomposition and *insisted* we donate the organs immediately. (Isn't that nice?) Again, my wife told the Red Cross not to call back. A few hours later my cell phone rang. It was the Red Cross asking me to donate my father's organs.

          The Red Cross has its own agenda and doesn't care about people's requests or wishes. So it doesn't surprise me it's violating its agreements with Johnson & Johnson. The Red Cross thinks it can do whatever it wants because it's a charitable organization. If you read the article, J&J is right in this issue, and I hope the company prevails in what is a clear trademark violation.
          • Re:I understand... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by morethanapapercert (749527) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @03:18PM (#20173523)
            Without trying to minimize your loss, or demean your experience in any way, to be fair to the ARC, they were trying to save another person's life that day. Your father was gone, but the remains had the potential to save others. I'm not clear on the exact limitations of organ transplants, specifically hearts, but I know that there is generally some very narrow window of time when the donor organ is still viable and that the closer the deadline the organ is removed, the lower the odds of success. As morbid and grotesque as it seems to the grieving family, doctors have good reasons for wanting to get at the organs while the donor body is still fresh, in some cases, perhaps still warm. I also understand that even when an organ donors card has been signed by the deceased, hospitals and doctors still prefer to confirm permission from the living next of kin. Your wife's request for "space" to come to terms with your loss was quite reasonable and understandable, but by the time your family had a chance to think about such things, the heart would likely be useless. From your description, you were the designated next of kin, so the hospital needed your specific word on the subject, not your wifes. The Red Cross merely assists the hospital in tracking down the next of kin using their call centre. MY wife is a rare blood type and is occasionally called into the hospital on an emergency basis by the Red Cross. As with organ donation, the Red Cross is calling at the request of the hospital staff because they are better set up to do so. It is not unusual for one Red Cross agent to call her at work, another to call the home and still another to call her at her parents home. They generally keep calling every hour on the hour until they either reach her in person or the hospital cancels the rare blood request. You may have been contacted by land line and by cell for a similar reason, one agent not knowing what the other is doing because there just wasn't time to exchange information between them.
              All that said, there are a few unfortunate things that occurred
            1) Even though your father never apparently signed an organ donors card, the medical staff still wanted his heart. Ethically, in the absence of a clear written agreement by the deceased, the staff are supposed to assume that he did NOT agree. The fact that they still pursued this suggest either they already knew there was a match with a waiting recipient (Something they normally can't determine until the heart has been removed) or they were guilty of far more wishful thinking then I am comfortable with in a medical organization. ("Maybe he was willing to donate, mentioned this to his family but never got around to filling out the card and maybe when we remove the heart it will turn out we can use it.")
            2)The pushiness of the first Red Cross agent, while somewhat understandable when there are lives on the line, is still unacceptable when dealing with a family in grief. Graphic descriptions are utterly unacceptable and inexcusable in those circumstances.
            3)There should be only one agent handling each transplant case and that agent needs to be far better trained in grief counseling. Bottom line, they are asking for a very personal kind of donation from a family that is at it's most vulnerable.
    • Re:I understand... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jimstapleton (999106) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:53AM (#20168329) Journal
      They have to protect it, true, but they can do something trivial, for example:

      Wouldn't one of these work?
      * Charge $10 for unlimited use by the red cross
      Or better yet,
      * donate $10,000, as "payment" for the free advertisement.

      trademark protected, company not harmed
    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@D ... com minus painte> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:00AM (#20168421) Journal

      ... after all, the swiss flag is the same, except that the colors are inverted. An "obvious attempt to hide a blatant ripoff of Swiss cultural heritage".

      Johnson and Johnson are just being dickheads [trolltalk.com].

      On a more serious note - they don't have a case. The International Red Cross created the symbol in 1863, and it was recognized by the First Geneva Convention in 1864 [icrc.org]

      International treaty establishes the prior claim and trumps any later claim by J&J.

      • by UltraDerek (808713) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:31AM (#20168791)
        Trademarks don't work that way. Firstly the Red Cross acknowldeged JnJ's trademark to the cross logo for certain commcercial medical products in 1895. That alone more or less ruins their case. Secondly before you get angry and JnJ for being monsters, remember that (in the US) if you don't defend your trademark you lose it. Finally even if you hate corporate America I hope that you can acknowledge that it is equally sleazy for a non-profit organization to hide behind its humanitarian efforts to blatantly violate previous agreements that it has signed and to license something that they do not have the registered trademark for. I think people should take a step back and wait for the case to work its way out, but at face value it appears that the Red Cross is very much in the wrong, and JnJ is in the right (legally).
        • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@D ... com minus painte> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:49AM (#20169025) Journal

          They agreed to JnJ's use of the cross logo, as you said, "for certain medical products", but that doesn't mean that JnJ all of a sudden now has exclusive rights.

          Neither organization has exclusive rights to it - it is an internationally-accepted symbol, as per the Geneva Convention, a year prior to the trademark registration. That being the case, JnJ are out of line. They have no trademark rights except on those medical devices, and those trademark rights don't take away anyone else's rights to use the symbol.

          At this point in time neither JnJ nor the ARC has the right to license its use to others. They're both in the wrong, but JnJ is a lot more in the wrong - the IRC can at least claim that the symbol originated with them.

        • by HeroreV (869368) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:12AM (#20169339) Homepage
          But... but... the Red Cross does good stuff! How could you possibly ever support suing such nice people?! They're non-profit, so they should get to do whatever they want! So what if they are blatantly violating the law and destroying a company's trademark! Once you've done that much good stuff, haven't you earned the right to go around knocking over whatever you want?!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by john83 (923470)
        More to the point, J&J were established in 1886; the American Red Cross have been around five years longer. How the hell J&J claim any rights over a symbol used before they were established? And if yes, why the hell hasn't that law been changed yet?
      • by vtcodger (957785) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:32AM (#20169609)
        ***International treaty establishes the prior claim and trumps any later claim by J&J***

        Very likely not.

        From the NY Times version of the story. "The company entered into an agreement with the American Red Cross in 1895. The agreement acknowledged Johnson & Johnson's exclusive right to the red cross as a "trademark for chemical, surgical and pharmaceutical goods of every description," according to the lawsuit."

        If the Red Cross ever had exclusive rights to the trademark in the US (It's not clear that they did), they appear to have voluntarily given them up. The lawsuit specifically addresses only products that compete with J&J. Looks to me like a clear violation of both the letter and intent of Trademark law. This seems not to be a case of J&J going after the Red Cross in order to add a few bucks to its bottom line. It looks to be a case of J&J protecting its century old shared trademark from overt, gratuitous infringing actions by the Red Cross.

        Note also that J&J suggested arbitration. The Red Cross said no.

  • ob (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edittard (805475) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:44AM (#20168251)
    Prior heart. As in Lion, Richard the.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hognoxious (631665)
      King Richard I didn't sell medical supplies. He was more into creating a demand for them.
  • by apathy maybe (922212) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:46AM (#20168261) Homepage Journal
    J&J have the trademark in the area of medicines and so on, and now the ARC is using that trademark to promote their own produces.

    I think that J&J have the law on their side in this case. Of course, whether the law is good or not is a different debate (and those of you who know my politics will know my opinion on laws in general...).

    This is hardly worthy of front page news, except for the fact that most people think the Red Cross is a good organisation. Doesn't make them immune from trademark law though.
    • by BitterAndDrunk (799378) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:47AM (#20168281) Homepage Journal
      Considering the Red Cross LICENSED the trademark to 4 different for profit medical device companies (i.e. J&J's competitors!)

      They didn't have the right to do that and that's why this is a case.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by k_187 (61692)
        Exactly, they aren't suing ARC for using a red cross. They're suing ARC for putting its red cross on the stuff that J&J's competitors sell.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Its too late guys. They won't read the article or have a clue what the real issue is. They'll just rant and rave about evil corporations. They read these stupid 'headlines' and then mouth off.
    • Not being up to snuff on trademark law, as far as I know, there are two important questions to determining the merits of this case.

      1) Has J&J properly defended their trademark before? If the trademark is seen as having a universal meaning (like Kleenex or Xerox), then they can lose their right to it.

      2) Does the ARC's previous use of the symbol in a relief charity context constitute use in the same general arena as J&J's medical supplies? After all, two companies not invovled the same market can
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dachannien (617929)
      The problem is, ask anybody on the street what symbol they associate with Johnson and Johnson, and 95% will say, "Beats the hell outta me." Ask some more people what they associate with {and show them the red cross symbol}, and probably over half will say the Red Cross, while almost none will say Johnson and Johnson (the outliers being employees in their legal department). Ask people what the symbol means, and most will give any of a variety of answers in the category of medicine, while almost none (those
    • by bcmm (768152) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:23AM (#20168709)

      J&J have the trademark in the area of medicines and so on, and now the ARC is using that trademark to promote their own produces.

      I think that J&J have the law on their side in this case.
      Except that the emblems of the Red Cross have special status in international law. Their main purpose is to indicate buildings, vehicles and personal which are used solely for treating the injured and may not be attacked. From Article 44 of the First Geneva Convention [wikisource.org] (1864, last revision 1949):

      With the exception of the cases mentioned in the following paragraphs of the present Article, the emblem of the red cross on a white ground and the words " Red Cross" or " Geneva Cross " may not be employed, either in time of peace or in time of war, except to indicate or to protect the medical units and establishments, the personnel and material protected by the present Convention and other Conventions dealing with similar matters.
      Skipped a bit covering exactly how National Red Cross Societies (e.g. ARC) are allowed to use the emblems for purposes other than protection, during peacetime.

      As an exceptional measure, in conformity with national legislation and with the express permission of one of the National Red Cross (Red Crescent, Red Lion and Sun) Societies, the emblem of the Convention may be employed in time of peace to identify vehicles used as ambulances and to mark the position of aid stations exclusively assigned to the purpose of giving free treatment to the wounded or sick.
      So, if J&J are using the Red Cross emblem on stuff they are not giving away for free, they are violating the First Geneva Convention (one of the most important and widely respected international conventions, except in Guantanamo Bay).

      It seems to me that the US government has a duty to prevent private companies violating the Geneva Conventions, and if the convention is properly implemented in law, there should be a valid legal reason to strike down J&J's trademark.
      • by bcmm (768152) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:36AM (#20168855)
        Missed it first time round, but, Article 53 [wikisource.org] is even clearer:

        The use by individuals, societies, firms or companies either public or private, other than those entitled thereto under the present Convention, of the emblem or the designation " Red Cross " or " Geneva Cross " or any sign or designation constituting an imitation thereof, whatever the object of such use, and irrespective of the date of its adoption, shall be prohibited at all times.
        Skipped a bit about the Swiss flag...

        Nevertheless, such High Contracting Parties as were not party to the Geneva Convention of 27 July 1929, may grant to prior users of the emblems, designations, signs or marks designated in the first paragraph, a time limit not to exceed three years from the coming into force of the present Convention to discontinue such use provided that the said use shall not be such as would appear, in time of war, to confer the protection of the Convention.
        And Article 54 [wikisource.org]:

        The High Contracting Parties shall, if their legislation is not already adequate, take measures necessary for the prevention and repression, at all times, of the abuses referred to under Article 53.
        So even if J&J had the trademark before this came into force, the US Government was legally required to stop them within three years of adopting the Convention. I don't know which revision introduced this, but it would seem that it's been illegal for J&J to use it since 1952 at the latest.

        The US signed the First Convention in 1882. I think that's all the directly relevant bits to this case. IANAL. :-)
      • Except that the emblems of the Red Cross have special status in international law. Their main purpose is to indicate buildings, vehicles and personal which are used solely for treating the injured and may not be attacked.

        True. But nowhere in the Geneva Convention is that special protection extended to commercial usage - it only describes the usage of the symbol on buildings, vehicles, and persons.
         
         

        It seems to me that the US government has a duty to prevent private companies violating the Geneva Conventions, and if the convention is properly implemented in law, there should be a valid legal reason to strike down J&J's trademark.

        It seems to me that you should consider what the Convention says, not what you wish it says.
  • Originality? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:46AM (#20168267) Homepage Journal
    Does the Red Cross symbol even meet the standard for originality? It's been used for a long time by military organizations to denote an on-battlefield hospital, and international treaty prevents the attacking of anything near a white flag with a red cross on it.

    I think if they really go to court over it, J+J might stand a chance of losing that trademark, IMHO.

    But IANAL.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by daeg (828071)
      The thing is, where exactly is the red cross J+J mark used? I don't see it on their website, www.jnj.com [jnj.com]. I don't see it on a few J+J products I looked at in my bathroom cabinet, either. Their primary mark is Johnson + Johnson in a cursive script. The only thing remotely close to a block letter 'cross' (or 'plus') symbol is the '+' between 'Johnson' and 'Johnson', and it doesn't resemble the Red Cross mark at all and I have never seen the J+J '+' by itself.
    • Re:Originality? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pla (258480) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:28AM (#20168757) Journal
      I think if they really go to court over it, J+J might stand a chance of losing that trademark, IMHO.

      I honestly don't think such a ruling would bother J&J nearly as much as it would bother ARC.

      The former may have the rights to it, but never really enforced it. The later has, for most of its modern history, acted more like SCO than a "charitable" organization dedicated to relieving human suffering - Ask a Korean or Vietnam vet their opinion of the Red Cross; prepare to catch an earful, though, because you won't hear much good about them.

      Declaring genericide on this particular trademark would make almost everyone happy except the ARC, who doesn't actually have the rights to it in the first place.
  • Switzerland (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tiberius_Fel (770739) <fel@@@empirereborn...net> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:46AM (#20168269)
    Great, now Switzerland will get involved and claim that the red cross is obviously a derivative work of their flag...
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:50AM (#20168301)
    In other news, Radio Shack plans to sue all companies that put a circle-R after their name. "Their trademark symbol is exploiting our trademark symbol" said aggrieved lawyers for the retailer.
  • by danaris (525051) <danaris@NoSPaM.mac.com> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:53AM (#20168333) Homepage

    I heard this on NPR this morning, and they were reporting something rather different.

    According to the story on the radio, J&J was suing not simply because the Red Cross is using the symbol—as they have for a century and more—but because they are licensing it to for-profit companies, breaking an agreement J&J made with them in 1895 or so.

    ...And, on checking the article, that's more or less exactly what it says. Congratulations to Swampash for being a total troll and not even reading the article he submitted. Or possibly kdawson for posting a self-written summary that utterly fails to grasp the point of the article.

    Dan Aris

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mwvdlee (775178)
      The question to me is whether J+J even had any rights to register the trademark, seeing as how it was already an established and protected symbol in Geneva conventions well before J+J registered it (1864).
  • by Xest (935314) * on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:54AM (#20168365)
    Just to put a different perspective on things:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2006/02/11/canadian_red_ cross_v.html [boingboing.net]

    J&J could just be launching a pre-emptive strike, I support the Red Cross' work but have absolutely no sympathy for them here, what goes around comes around I suppose, I'd argue they brought this upon themselves when trying to aggressively suggest they have the sole rights to the red cross symbol, something which as an Englishman, who's flag is a red cross I find rather offensive.
  • Bad Strategy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:54AM (#20168369)
    The real danger here is that the court will rule that a red cross on a white background is a public domain symbol that NEITHER entity owns copyright on. It's a pretty old symbol (dating, arguably, to the crusades). If that happens, then J&J is worse off than not litigating.

    The best result for both parties is to settle with some sort of agreement not to sue--then they both can claim they defended their trademark and it's used under license, without the danger of anyone using the symbol.

    Frankly, though, I don't think that's socially optimal. It IS a bloody public domain symbol. How does one indicate on a sign where the first aid station is in a public place? That's right--red cross on a white background.
  • by CaptainZapp (182233) * on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:57AM (#20168391) Homepage
    The Red Cross was founded by Henri Dunant in Geneva and the symbol is actually based on the Swiss flag (it's the negative thereof). Since Switzerland was (arguably) founded in 1291 it should sue Johnson & Johnson for the flagrant abuse of a national mark for over a century.

    Additionally, I'd wager that the PR agents at Johnson & Johnson won't be too happy about the damage control they will have to undertake for the next several years.

    Some of those corporate lawyer types seem to be beyond outrageously stupid.

  • "Saint"? Oh please. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:00AM (#20168425)

    hard-to-win-a-pissing-match-with-a-saint dept

    Maybe J&J's backlash is because they're disgusted at how commercial and "profit" the Red Cross has become.

    The Red Cross is no saint. If they were, they wouldn't be charging insane amounts of money for *donated* blood (which has an astoundingly poor rate of screening for HIV and other communicable diseases), refusing donations of material (Red Cross only accepts money) for disasters, and using any disaster as an excuse for a recruitment drive, even when they're not really needed.

    In the months after September 11th, the ads were almost non-stop. Almost two billion dollars flowed in. Do you really think September 11th victims needed places to sleep, clothing, etc? And do you realize how much clothing and basic human needs $2BN takes care of?

    And guess how much they did in Louisiana? Next to nothing, just like the feds...http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/july- dec05/redcross_12-14.html

    Basic problems, like not training their volunteers. I wonder where the money goes?

    • by vigmeister (1112659) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:31AM (#20168787)
      This was like my experience when the Tsunami struck Asia. I had lived in two of the worst hit places (in India and Indonesia) and could speak the languages. I called the local Red Cross and asked them if they had any efforts going on there and if I could go (on my own ticket) and help out with the rescue efforts. The ARC were like, ummm... We aren't really sending people there, but you can donate the money. I replied saying I could SEE red cross workers there on TV. The female's said that they were from a different country (probably local) and that the ARC was a separate entity. Then she offered me a volunteer position as a phone operator. I think it might jsut be the ARC, but still...

      Cheers!
    • by db32 (862117) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:46AM (#20168991) Journal
      Haven't you been reading the news lately? The Red Cross had stated they were going to police the use of the logo in every form and use. They were going after video games for using the symbol to denote health packs. I can't even begin to count the number of places I have seen the symbol used to denote various types of medical assistance in games, media, etc, so the Red Cross needs a ton of funding to hire enough people to search through all media everywhere looking for violations and even more for the lawyers to attack the offenders.

      I think the most moronic part about that is that they claim their mark is being misused or diluted or whatever. But because of its widespread use in modern media and the like EVERYONE is going to know by the age of 10 what the symbol means...Medical Help Here!

      While I have no love for J&J for this stunt, I have no sympathy for the Red Cross. Taste of their own poison serves them right. They may have done wonderful things in the past, and they are a terribly important organization overall, but they need a swift kick in the balls to get themselves back on track and helping people instead of going after innane bullshit. They have been a monsterous waste of resources as of late, and it is about time someone steps up and fixes it.
  • News for who? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:18AM (#20168641)
    This news story seems to be off-topic from the stated mission of this site.

    If they want to change it from "News for Nerds" to "News for Anti-Corporate Bigots" or "News for Politically-Correct Drug Company Haters" then this would be a perfect story. It's even got the half-truths and misleading spin in the summary that seems to appeal to bigots and haters these days.

    How dare they try to protect their trademark anyway?
  • RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cerelib (903469) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:26AM (#20168737)
    Wow, reading the posts so far seems to indicate that most people did not RTFA. This is not a simple trademark dispute. J&J and ARC had an agreement going back to the 1880's that seems to stipulate that J&J would have sole use of the red cross symbol for marketing commercial medical products (a business the ARC was not and did not intend to be in). The problem now is that the ARC is marketing products in stores, using the red cross symbol, that compete with J&J products. J&J sees this as a violation of the long-standing agreement between the two organizations even knowing that the profits feed back into the charity. At least this is my understanding of this situation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:26AM (#20168739)
    From Reuters:

    Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday sued the American Red Cross over the use by the relief group and its partners of J&J's trademark red cross logo on first aid kits, hand sanitizer and medical gloves sold to the public.

    Among other things, J&J asked the court to prohibit sales of those items and order the defendants to turn over unsold goods and related marketing materials and all monetary gains from sales of the disputed items, which are sold in stores such as Target and Wal-Mart.

    In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the maker of Band-Aids said it has for more than 100 years "owned exclusive trademark rights in the Red Cross Design for first aid and wound care products sold to the consuming public, including first aid kits."

    J&J said American Red Cross founder Clara Barton in 1895 signed a deal with J&J agreeing and acknowledging the company's "exclusive use of a red cross as a trademark and otherwise for chemical, surgical, pharmaceutical goods of every description."

    Until recently, the two sides have cooperated amicably in enforcing their respective rights, J&J said.
  • by FellowConspirator (882908) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:10AM (#20169303)
    The Red Cross, as an organization, was founded in Geneva in 1863 by the Societe Genevoise d'Utilite Publique. The following year, the organization held the Geneva Convention for the "Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field". At that convention, in 1864, the Red Cross adopted the inverse of the Swiss national flag, a red cross on a field of white, as the official emblem of the organization -- at that time known as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

    The American Red Cross was founded in 1881 with the aim of endorsing US becoming party to the Geneva Convention (which it did in 1882) and extended the ICRC mission to the USA. In doing so, the adopted they adopted the logo of the ICRC (with their approval). Johnson & Johnson adopted the red cross logo in part, because the symbol of a red cross on a field of white had already become synonymous with treating the sick, since, at that point, the logo had already been used in that capacity for 24 years and had become familiar with it through the ARC's activity in treating civil war soldiers.

    J&J is being foolish. The suit will cost them their trademark.

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