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J&J and Red Cross--Children...Children.

Posted by: David Kiley on August 10, 2007


It couldn’t have been easy for Johnson & Johnson to decide to sue the American Red Cross for trademark infringement. The two entities have used the same familiar logo for over a century. And who wants to sue the Red Cross anyway. It makes for terrible PR.

The Red Cross ran afoul of J&J, the company says, when it began licensing its non-profit logo to a few outfits using it on items such as nail-clippers and humidifiers. It’s only a few dollars of licensing fees, but J&J has an army of lawyers who get paid to watchdog its logo.

It seems pretty clear that the ARC has run afoul of fair use of its non-profit logo. It wouldn’t be an issue but for J&J’s long established use of the red-cross symbol.

What’s on display in this civil suit more than trademark law, though, is the ridiculous refusal of adults to come to compromise. And this goes especially for the ARC, whose minsmanagement has been on display since 9-11. If ARC has to spend donations to defend itself in this case, which seems to have so little merit from the standpoint of the defendant, then ARC leadership should really be called in on the carpet by its board.

Reader Comments


August 10, 2007 9:35 AM

Everybody at the Red Cross involved in the decision not to compromise should be fired immediately. Nevertheless, J&J couldn't come up with a better solution than this? What's next, kicking Girl Scouts?


August 10, 2007 2:13 PM

It makes me angry that J&J is suing a non-profit who is just trying to help people. What happened to the days of J&J doing the right thing, like when they took over the top measures to handle the Tylenol crisis? Brands should be protected but not when the action damages your reputation.

Capn Howdy

August 11, 2007 6:42 AM

I am kind of down on the Red Cross after I heard they have been approving payments for psychotherapy for Katrina victims. Apparently they do not check for actual financial need, so this includes wealthy people who evacuated during the storm, have insurance and could afford their own therapy. (I know a couple of them.)

When all those people donated to the Red Cross after Katrina, is this what they thought their money was going to? I doubt it. I guess the RC got too much money and now they need to spend it on stupid things.


September 17, 2007 8:02 PM

I think J&J is doing the right thing and I'm sure it was a difficult choice to make. The Geneva Convention protected the Red Cross as a symbol of safety and protection and yet the Red Cross, themselves, are licensing it to fly-by-night outfits just to make a buck? At least, under the law, J&J had rights to the symbol and were particular about what it was placed on (notice it's not on their baby shampoo). What's next for the Red Cross - selling donated supplies on the black market to make a few extra bucks??


September 22, 2007 8:34 PM

Get a clue. You sound like one of those cultic Linux fanatics, or the people who feel oh-so-empowered because they now have a blog.

Should "charity" organizations (which the Red Cross is not, not anymore) be above the law that applies to everyone else?

Don't think for a moment from your little armchairs that J&J's lawyers are so antagonistic that they started with a litigation right away. Common business practice and courtesy would have made sure that Red Cross was informed and requested to stop mis-appropriating a tangible business asset of another company, and I bet J&J must have done so.

It is a pharmaceutical company, and they have to be doubly cautious, egregiously cautious, unabidingly cautious, about how their name is tinkered with -- whether it is by a pseudo-charitable organization or not.

People ignorant of how business works can sit ensconced on their high horses all they want. If something goes wrong with something even cursorily related to J&J (recent example anyone?), these very same cretins would be the first to stampede to their blogs and criticize a company for being so in the wrong.

Well, stand up to it. If Red Cross or Mother Teresa or The Salvation Army flout a law, they do not get away with it just by virtue of what they represent. I expect the Red Cross to come out and do what is right, not righteous from a puerile perspective of emotional masses who know how to comment on blogs.


March 11, 2009 3:07 PM

I don't buy any other products from Johnson&Johnson if the company will sue the Red Cross for trademark infringement.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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