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Johnson & Johnson Loses Major Trademark Lawsuit

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the pass-the-tylenol dept.

Censorship 176

Dekortage writes "As previously discussed here, the health-products giant Johnson & Johnson sued the American Red Cross over use of the ubiquitous 'red cross' logo. J&J has now lost. The presiding judge said Johnson & Johnson's claim against the organization was doubtful because the manufacturer entered into a brand-sharing promotional agreement with the American Red Cross in 1986 — not to mention that the two organizations agreed to share the logo way back in 1895. Sounds like J&J may need to crack open some Tylenol and Band-Aids."

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176 comments

When you're hiring lawyers... (5, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534221)

...check if they have a clue about public relations and brand image. I mean, did they consider at all that people might start to see J&J as "the assholes who bullied the Red Cross?"

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (3, Insightful)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534345)

Probably. Be on the lookout for unusually large donations of medical supplies being donated to the Red Cross sometime in the future.

GOD DAMN! Now this is Nerd News I NEED To KNOW !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534911)



GOD DAMN! Now this is Nerd News I NEED To KNOW !! I am glad I'm a fucking kommie to day !!

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (3, Insightful)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534391)

Sorry, I think they win on this one. You're one of a _very_ few people who pays attention to trademark lawsuits. There are, on the other hand, people who make purchasing decisions by logo.

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534689)

I understand what you mean here, but I think that the amount of people who have been following significant legal issues has been slowly increasing....I think it wouldn't be enough to make a drop in an ocean to johnson and johnson though, unfortunately.

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (5, Informative)

jonadab (583620) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534725)

Yeah, but how many people were previously aware that the Red Cross logo is also a trademark of Johnson & Johnson? Personally, I had no idea they'd ever used that mark. The things I most associate with them are a certain color of yellow and the phrase "no more tears". A red cross inscribed in a white square, on the other hand, is something I associate mainly with blood drives.

Which might have something to do with the reason J&J lost. The Red Cross actually *uses* this logo extensively. J&J pretty much has a different logo or appearance for each and every product they sell. Which product do they use the red cross logo for? Whatever it is, I don't believe I've ever seen it, or even an advertisement for it.

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (2, Interesting)

arb phd slp (1144717) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535221)

Have they done any research to assess how much mindshare that logo has? Because I don't think it is worth fighting for. I associate the cursive "Johnson & Johnson" logo with J&J far more than the red cross logo (which of course makes me think of the Red Cross).

They could lose the red cross trademark from their products altogether and I don't think I'd notice.

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (4, Informative)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535675)

Where do you live? I'm in the UK, and I've never seen the red cross on a Johnson and Johnson product here (perhaps the Red Cross *do* have the clearly-established trademark rights in this country), but I'm familiar with the "No More Tears" thing on their baby shampoo.

It may be different in the US, where this case relates to.

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534583)

Nobody sees the WWF as the assholes who bullied the WWE.

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534627)

Nobody sees the WWF as the assholes who bullied the WWE.
Ok, but we are talking about the Red Cross--a group that people actually care about. This is the group that you go to when your house burns down and you need a place to sleep. Or the group that you turn to when your government is too inept to handle some disaster.

The Red Cross doesn't have a perfect image, but bullying them is about as good for public opinion as bullying the Girl Scouts.

If Johnson & Johnson would have won this lawsuit, Congress almost certainly would have unamimously passed a law giving the Red Cross the right to the red cross logo.

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (1)

sprintkayak (582245) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535263)

On the other hand, one cannot be selective about brand protection. If some cuddly organization starts marketing their own brand of Q-Tips (independent of J&J), this dilutes the Q-Tip brand. J&J needs to put a stop to it (in court) or risk losing control of the brand (i.e. anyone can start making Q-Tips [and calling them Q-Tips]).

Re:When you're hiring lawyers... (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535809)

Yeah, but AFAIK the Red Cross doesn't have a box of band-aids on the shelf next to J&J. They're not even in the business of selling stuff. And I seriously doubt anyone ever went to a blood drive, saw the "red cross" symbol and thought, "Oh, this must be a J&J blood drive". The two companies are so far divergent in everything they do I don't see how this even came up to begin with. I'm definitely going to think twice before I buy J&J products now, that's for sure.

Emperors (2, Interesting)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535445)

Lawsuits typically start the same way wars do -- over someone's ego... and empire construction doesn't help matters. Ego usually blinds organizations long enough for ink to dry on any questionable document.

The more mud that is slung, the harder it is to see who is really dirty!

The Red Cross caused this problem (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535495)

Let me make an analogy. Suppose that you are a restaurant occupying and operating in a building called The Slashdot House. You are a for-profit business. Now, for a century or so, you have had an amicable relationship with a non-profit soup kitchen which also operates out of the same building and using the same kitchen. The two of you are not in competition, since you are a for-profit business and they are a non-profit.

Now suppose you find out that the non-profit is suddenly selling meals, in violation of your previous peaceful agreement. Before, there was no chance that a reasonable person would get a meal at the soup kitchen and think that they were dealing with your restaurant. Now, the non-profit is telling people "Come to The Slashdot House and get nutritious healthy meals for affordable prices!" which is exactly what you've been advertising. When you protest that the agreement between you clearly held that they would not do commercial business and therefore not threaten your commercial business, they smirk and say "Guess again, the agreement only says we won't do commercial business for profit. Since we're not expecting to turn a profit, we can compete for your market all we want -- and if you take us to court, we'll smear you in the media as the nasty nasty profiteering people who tried to bully a saintly non-profit."

That's what happened here. The Red Cross was the one that made the decision to disturb the existing customary arrangement. Under that agreement, the Red Cross was using the red cross symbol as a logo, but only Johnson & Johnson were using it as a trademark (literally "mark of trade", remember: the symbol which identifies who it is that is taking responsibility for the product or service.) Then the Red Cross decided "hey, it's perfectly fine for us to start putting this logo on commercial products that compete with Johnson & Johnson who are already using this symbol in the trademark space! Even though our partners are certainly for-profit businesses, we're non-profit!" And believe me, when they started this lawsuit, the Red Cross's justification in the press was not "the Congressional charter granted us shortly before the end of the 19th century permitted us to use this logo for commercial purposes" or "in 1986 Johnson & Johnson entered into a promotional agreement with the Red Cross in which coupons from J&J products could be redeemed for donations to the Red Cross". It was "Bwaaaaaaaaaaah, look at dat nasty, nasty big commercial cowpowation! Dey picking on us widdle, widdle Wed Cross! They big! Us widdle! Don't you agwee that regardless of whatever the actual facts of the case are, dey must be da big, mean buwwies?"

Re:The Red Cross caused this problem (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535751)

How about you suck it you libertarian bitch!

Re:The Red Cross caused this problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535805)

^ mod parent up ^

Re:The Red Cross caused this problem (3, Informative)

Sique (173459) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535913)

As I understood, the situation is different. The Red Cross logo is owned by Red Cross, and J&J has a license to use it on their products which costs J&J 5 ct per item sold.

And now Red Cross is licensing the logo to other companies with similar deals, thus ending J&J exclusivity, but not diluting any trademarks J&J was owning. If the license deal didn't had any wording about exclusivity, then I don't see J&J having a case, and obviously the judges didn't see any case either.

So if they had won... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534239)

Would America get the Red Crescent? Or maybe the Red Star?

Re:So if they had won... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534341)

The fact that it was a cross has nothing to do with religion (at least, not directly) and everything to do with Switzerland.

This is, of course, assuming you're being facetious, and ignoring the fact that those organizations do exist. Albeit only because other people fail to understand where the cross comes from, and themselves took it religiously.

it sure is a religious symbol (5, Informative)

nguy (1207026) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534933)

The fact that it was a cross has nothing to do with religion (at least, not directly) and everything to do with Switzerland.

Are you joking? Of course, it does. The cross in the Swiss flag represents the Christian cross, and the people who picked it in 1863 were fully aware of that. The fact that the Red Cross not only added the Red Crescent as a symbol, but also in 2007 added the non-religions Red Crystal, shows that this is widely recognized to this day.

Personally, I wish they would make the Red Crystal standard and get rid of the two other symbols; retaining religious symbols in aid organizations perpetuates the misconception that religions have something to do with altruism.

but... (2, Insightful)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535279)

religions do have something to do with altruism.
Almost all religions mention altruism as a positive trait, and some even do something about it.

Re:but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535749)

religions do have something to do with altruism.

Yup, altruism is the first word that comes to mind when I think of religion.

Re:it sure is a religious symbol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535655)

Perhaps we could use a red circle...oh wait!

Re:So if they had won... (4, Funny)

dwater (72834) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534349)

I expect they would like England to change their flag too (though it's a little different, admittedly, since the red cross extends all the way to the edge of the white).

Re:So if they had won... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534485)

No, they'd still be the red cross. I know actually reading TFA is bad karma, but the issue here from J&J's point of view is that they agreed to share the logo with the ARC and now the ARC is licencing that logo for commercial purposes to other people.

That and to maintain a trademark you have to aggressively defend it, even if you don't think its a case you can win.

Re:So if they had won... (3, Funny)

ultor (216766) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534515)

Why not change the "Red" component? Here's hoping they adopt the ambiguous Iron Cross [wikipedia.org] as their new logo.

Brand recognition (5, Insightful)

concernedadmin (1054160) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534259)

When I think of a red cross, I immediately think of emergency relief, supplies, etc. I don't think of household products. What did Johnson & Johnson see in trying to seize (what I feel is) a pretty well established brand with a certain set of qualities (such as disaster aid)?

Re:Brand recognition (4, Informative)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534275)

It's not just a brand. There are international treaties governing its use. These are pretty specific about when and where you can use it. This is why most first aid kits I see now have a green cross rather than a red cross. Trademarks are used in some countries to strengthen the protection.

Re:Brand recognition (3, Funny)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534303)

Even worse, if J&J had won, every game would have to be re-released with re-branded medkits! /sarcasm

Re:Brand recognition (4, Informative)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534321)

Actually, some of the Red Cross organizations are asking game makers to stop doing it anyway. Recoloring to green wouldn't be too hard to do.

Reinterprete War Crimes (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534847)

I guess if J&J had won, there would have been some Germans that would have their war crime convictions overturned (at least, the family name) because the red cross would have just been another merchant ship. That would have been fine.

Re:Reinterprete War Crimes (1)

Peil (549875) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535055)

Umm, the Red Cross waw commonly used by all beligerants during WWII to denote a medical transport.

Re:Reinterprete War Crimes (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535821)

I guess if J&J had won, there would have been some Germans that would have their war crime convictions overturned (at least, the family name) because the red cross would have just been another merchant ship. That would have been fine.
That's a stupid, pointless and downright illogical thing to say.

Are you seriously implying that J&J winning a trademark case in 2008 has any relevance to what happened 60 years ago when (as the other reply states) all those involved knew exactly what the symbol was meant to represent at that time?!

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Re:Brand recognition (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534873)

One of the Quake 3 Arena devs said the reason none of the health orbs are red (there's blue, yellow, orange and green IIRC) is exactly that, they weren't allowed to use the red cross.

Re:Brand recognition (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534487)

Well, if we're looking for funny mods:

I'm waiting for them to go after all of the abuses in porn. Most porn nurses are covered in red crosses, or so I'm told.

Re:Brand recognition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535045)

The 1990s called and wanted its threat of lawsuit back (no red cross medikits allowed since then). Oh and Nintendo Of America banned crosses back in the 1980s.

Re:Brand recognition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535435)

When I was working on one of my student game projects, there was a story about the Red Cross telling game makers to do just that.

Sort of as a joke, I changed the color on all our healthpacks to blue instead of red.

Damn Johnson and Johnson to Hell! (4, Insightful)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534277)

For some of us, particularly those of us who have been or are in the military, or the medical field, or first responders, the red cross means, in general, not a particular branding, nor the United States Red Cross nor the Red Cross International -- it means that in an emergency, when lives are on the line and blood and pain are at hand, that there is help. It's a beacon in the darkness that there is still hope.

That's what this is about. J&J tried to take that away. The Red Cross is an internationally agreed upon and (near, if not completely) a universally recognised sign that shouts, "Medical Care! MEDICAL CARE HERE!" Ask any random hundred or thousand people off the street what they think when they see a Red Cross on a White Field. I seriously doubt that Johnson and Johnson will be near the top of the list.

What J&J have done here that is so reprehensible is attempted to dilute that already prolific sign of medical care and hope, to commercialise what others already had a far better claim to. Shame on them, sirs. Shame and disgrace.

They might as well attempt to sue the Catholic Church for being (one of the two) oldest branches of Christianity over trademarks over Santa Claus. It would be exactly as nonsensical.

Signed,
Irate Med Student.

Re:Damn Johnson and Johnson to Hell! (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534491)

What J&J have done here that is so reprehensible is attempted to dilute that already prolific sign of medical care and hope, to commercialise what others already had a far better claim to.

Ah yes... the kneejerk "the $BIG_CORP must be the one at fault" reaction. Meanwhile, the $CHARITY who is seeking (against the agreement they made with $BIG_CORP) to commercialize the "already prolific sign of medical care and hope" goes scot free...
 
Or, to put it in much simpler terms - you pretty much have the situation entirely reversed and then misunderstood. J&J did not try to take anything away from the Red Cross - they tried to prevent the Red Cross from using the trademark in question in a commercial fashion rather than a charity fashion.
 
The bad guys in this situation, the guys crossing the line, the guys violating their agreements... is the Red Cross.

Re:Damn Johnson and Johnson to Hell! (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534767)

they tried to prevent the Red Cross from using the trademark in question in a commercial fashion rather than a charity fashion

IMHO J&J really shouldn't have expected exclusive commercial use of it either since it was never theirs to start with. I don't think the argument above is enough of an excuse to blame the Red Cross for the legal action by J&J.

Re:Damn Johnson and Johnson to Hell! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534493)

Johnson and Johnson's behavior is hardly suprising.

Chances are their current crop of executives has latched on to the idea that they own this particular piece of what's fashionably referred to as "Intellectual Property". (Which, by the way, is a big pile of misnamed crap pushed down our throats thanks in large part to the pharmaceutical industry. Though you didn't create it here's a problem you may be able to help fix one day Mr. Med. Student)

Anyhow, the execs are ostensibly motivated by two things: Wall Street investors and their own, likely substantial, investment in J&J. Wall street investors could make a giant stink if there's any whiff of J&J not fully pursuing profits from perceived rights and thereby enhancing shareholder value (perhaps in the form of dividends..). Which is to say they are motivated entirely by the fear of not making money.

Of course nobody at J&J would have considered simply pointing out that "it's the fucking Red Cross for fucks sake". They aren't boy scouts or penniless-hippies after all.

What's more chances are there are few people who will hear of this. Of those that do, few won't be calmed by images of serene mothers slathering their babies in J&J products. "After all, if mothers trust their children to J&J, shouldn't you trust J&J?" etc. etc. And the remaining 1% of the populace can go fuck themselves however they like.

Hooray for capitalism without perfectly-informed-and-perfectly-rational consumers!

Really everyone at J&J who participated and signed-off on this litigation ought to resign. From the lowly peons all the way to the executives who were aware of it. But when was the last time anything like this had the fallout it should've had?

Signed,
      Irate Cynic

"fear of not making money" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535061)

True. And the very common "fear of someone ELSE making money", whether you were going to do the work to make the money or not.

Retard says... "Damn Johnson and Johnson to Hell!" (4, Insightful)

baboo_jackal (1021741) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534537)

For some of us, particularly those of us who have been or are in the military, or the medical field, or first responders, the red cross means, in general, not a particular branding, nor the United States Red Cross nor the Red Cross International -- it means that in an emergency, when lives are on the line and blood and pain are at hand, that there is help. It's a beacon in the darkness that there is still hope.

Hey man, no matter the outcome of this retarded Corp-Fight, my FLAs are still going to have big fat red crosses on big fat white backgrounds on them, and the Soldiers who need medical care will always know where to come.

Your argument that this retarded conflict between two Companies might somehow negatively affect American Soldiers and prevent them from obtaining needed medical care is absurd. Let those two fight it out. F your "sacred symbology" tirade. Nobody who's getting shot at, and shot, gives one shit about it.

Re:Damn Johnson and Johnson to Hell! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534961)

Please read the other articles in this post to get at least a rudimentary understanding of what the lawsuit was, and was not, trying to do, and why it came about.

As you advance in your medical career, please take today as an example of the danger of speedy misdiagnosis through unwillingness to first investigate thoroughly.

Also, as far as rhetorics go, it's often a bad idea to appeal to strong, admired group X unless your audience is either aware of your history with X, or you can be sure that group X already agrees with you. Responses indicate that this backfired for you.

Ill-informed comments (3, Informative)

Mutatis Mutandis (921530) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535047)

Apparently you have not bothered to check up on the actual story. A link was provided.

What angered J&J was the decision of the American Red Cross to license the symbol to other companies for use, in return for a small donation, on the packaging of toenail clippers and tooth brushes, among other things.

The judge apparently feels that this is a legitimate fund raising activity, which may very well be a valid point of law. He also feels that the 19th century agreement between J&J and the ARC governing the use of the red cross symbol is overridden by the charter Congress gave to the ARC, which gives it full control over the use the red cross symbol. That too, may be a legitimate point.

However, if the morals of "commercializing" the Red Cross are what you take issue with, rather than the legal framework, I don't see how J&J can be claimed to the be more at fault than the ARC itself.

For the debate is not about the ARC asking J&J to stop the commercial use of the red cross, something which they have done for over a century. (That, I think, would have been a sensible option.) And certainly not about J&J asking the ARC to stop the non-commercial use of the red cross; that would be patently absurd. It's about the ARC expanding the commercial use of the symbol. Surely, if its commercial use is a bad idea, then the ARC's decision is hardly wise? Toenail clippers are rarely a matter of life and death.

As for the sensitivity of J&J on the issue, I think their concern about trademark confusion is unrealistic but genuine. J&J's brand name is one of the most valuable on the market, and it is understandable that they are jealously protective of it. Whether this was a smart approach is something different.

Re:Damn Johnson and Johnson to Hell! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535109)

The Red Cross is an internationally agreed upon and (near, if not completely) a universally recognised sign that shouts, "Medical Care! MEDICAL CARE HERE!"

So your argument seems to be that the red cross symbol is now a generic name, like asprin, and should be taken away from J&J and the Red Cross?

Re:Brand recognition (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534291)

Their concern was that the Red Cross was reselling their tradmark. Dirty pool on the Red Cross. And it won't turn out bad for J&J PR wise; the Red Cross has a strong motivation to hide thier money-grubbing ways.

This lawsuit seems more complex (5, Informative)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534331)

When I think of a red cross, I immediately think of emergency relief, supplies, etc. I don't think of household products. What did Johnson & Johnson see in trying to seize (what I feel is) a pretty well established brand with a certain set of qualities (such as disaster aid)?

I'm presuming the court made the appropriate decision here, but it sounds as if the story's more complicated than a bunch of crazy lawyers filing a ridiculous lawsuit. The problem that Johnson & Johnson had was that the Red Cross had (apparently) started to commercially license its symbol to businesses that were probably in direct competition with J&J, and this would have been unforseen in the past when J&J probably saw and treated the Red Cross as a completely non-commercial organisation, with largely uncommercial products, and where any place it used the logo were at best for fundraising.

If it suddenly starts licensing its logo, though, then other companies can start using it to promote their own commercial products in the same domain as Johnson & Johnson in a way that could potentially confuse customers. In other words, any business that wants to start leeching from Johnson & Johnson's pre-existing brand recognition and loyalty might be able to throw a comparably cheap donation towards the Red Cross as a licensing fee, without having to negotiate at all with J&J, and make their commercial packaging potentially confusing with Johnson & Johnson's. This could be a real problem for J&J in the case of competitors who want to get their products shelved right next to it in supermarkets, for instance. Apart from the licensing fee, the Red Cross isn't even benefiting anywhere near as much as J&J might be losing.

I think the lawyers probably wanted to prevent the Red Cross from being able to give other businesses what could be a huge commercial advantage and steal its own good will, when under normal circumstances this would all be prevented by trademark law. Sure, J&J has probably benefited a lot from having a logo that looks like the Red Cross, but it sounds as if they've at least had it for as long as the Red Cross has.

Re:This lawsuit seems more complex (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534439)

I can't say that I completely agree with licensing the Red Cross for trivial household products.

But nevertheless I oppose the position of J&J in this dispute. It was clearly Johnson & Johnson who was leeching off the Red Cross movement and to claim ownership of the Symbol is just wrong (even if it is their registered trademark)
They just got lucky because they were the first company to do so, and have done so ever since.
I suppose this is the best outcome of the dispute.

Personally, I think any company should be able to put a Red Cross on emergency first aid products (only), free of charge, but this is probably just wishful thinking.

Re:This lawsuit seems more complex (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534539)

Yup, this like the Apple Corps Vs Apple Computer type case - one party does something that might break a long standing agreement, so they let the courts sort it out.
Though In this case the red cross on white background has become so generic that neither party has a real claim to the trademark.

Re:This lawsuit seems more complex (1)

Kifoth (980005) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534585)

From TFA

"But the Red Cross angered Johnson & Johnson beginning in 2004 by licensing the symbol to other companies for use on commercial items sold in stores as part of the organization's fund-raising program.

The items included humidifiers, hand sanitizer gel, medical examination gloves, nail clippers, combs and toothbrushes. Some were part of first-aid kits sold at Target and by other retailers. Red Cross received part of the proceeds."

Clearly the lawsuit is more complex.

That said... If J&J didn't foresee a backlash from this, they are either scoundrels or idiots.

Re:Brand recognition (5, Informative)

slash.duncan (1103465) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535003)

> When I think of a red cross, I immediately
> think of emergency relief, supplies, etc.

That's what I thought of as a kid. Now, I know the history previous to that. Now, I think of the Crusades and the terrible things done in the name of Christianity during them. That's where the red cross on a white background originated.

The Knights Templar (Temple Mount Knights, who took a vow of poverty (communal property, as the term meant at that time) and allegiance to the order, who originally protected the pilgrims during a period when most other knights were ignoring them because there wasn't profit in their protection, who were a time the most powerful Military Christian order after so many donated so much in turn, who set up the first European and Crusader banking system, had as their naval flag the original white skull and crossbones on a black background later associated with pirates, who traded with the Muslims and introduced gauze (from Gaza, the city), muslin (from Muslim), and candy (from al-kandiq) these were one of the orders that flew the red cros on a white background, the original symbol of the crusades.

Similarly with the Knights Hospitaller, whose order founded and staffed the medical "hospitals" the pilgrims and Crusaders used. This is actually the origin of both the word "hospital" and the association of the red cross with medicine. Of course, while they were a welcome sight to many a wounded Christian Crusader or pilgrim, obviously, the Muslims had a rather different viewpoint! No WONDER they couldn't tolerate the Red Cross as a medical symbol! To them it meant the rape and pillage, the savagery of the Crusades! So they went with the Red Crescent.

However, the Red Crescent is also a religious symbol, so today there's a third symbol coming into use, designed to be religiously neutral while still being unmistakable for anything else. It is often used in international contexts, particularly in the mid-east. This is the Red Crystal, a diamond shape.

So, ideally, the Red Crystal will eventually come to have the positive associations of the Red Cross and Red Crescent today, without the sectarian and cultural negatives. It's also worth noting that Cross, Crescent, and Crystal, all start with C, so the ARC (and other "Red Cross and Red Crescent" organizations worldwide) could adopt the Crystal without even changing initials.

Wikipedia is a place to start, anyway. There are links from there elsewhere, and I've included another informative link on the Knights Templar as well as a Google link, below.

Wikipedia Red Cross/Crescent/Crystal (and some others)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Cross_(symbol) [wikipedia.org]

Wikipedia Knights Templar
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_Templar [wikipedia.org]

Wikipedia Knights Hospitaller
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_Hospitaller [wikipedia.org]

Also see Wikipedia Teutonic Knights
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teutonic_Knights [wikipedia.org]

A rather informative (altho obvious viewpoint taken) history of the Knights Templar (on first page of the below google)
http://www.electricscotland.com/HISTORY/kt1.htm [electricscotland.com]

Google on: "red cross" history crusades
http://www.google.com/search?q=%22red+cross%22+history+crusades [google.com]

Re:Brand recognition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535275)

When I think of a red cross, I immediately think of emergency relief, supplies, etc. I don't think of household products.
RTFA, and you will find that the American Red Cross has been licensing the symbol for "humidifiers, hand sanitizer gel, medical examination gloves, nail clippers, combs and toothbrushes."

What did Johnson & Johnson see in trying to seize (what I feel is) a pretty well established brand with a certain set of qualities (such as disaster aid)?
Seems that it's ARC, not J&J, who wants to expand the brand. But if they want to screw up one of the best recognized symbols out there, they are the owners, so I guess that's their prerogative.

Your brand recognition fails (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535553)

When I think of a red cross, I immediately think of emergency relief, supplies, etc. I don't think of household products.
Thank you for confessing that you are absolutely unaware of even the most basic facts of the case. The red cross symbol has meant "Johnson & Johnson" in the commercial household products space for pretty much the same length of time that it has meant "the American Red Cross or a similar organization" in the non-profit space. Johnson & Johnson did not "try to seize" anything from the Red Cross; the Red Cross was the one that disturbed the existing arrangement, by licensing its logo for commercial household products -- thus effectively putting the trademark of Johnson & Johnson on products that competed with Johnson & Johnson's.

So, what did the Swiss have to say about this? (2, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534367)

Seems to me they've been using the red cross for quite a while, too.

-jcr

Re:So, what did the Swiss have to say about this? (1)

who knows my name (1247824) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534383)

actually the Swiss flag is a white cross on a red background. You would be thinking of the English flag...

Re:So, what did the Swiss have to say about this? (4, Informative)

greatpatton (1242300) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534437)

The red cross is the swiss flag inverted. The Red Cross founder was swiss.

Re:So, what did the Swiss have to say about this? (4, Funny)

Mr. Bad Example (31092) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535083)

> The red cross is the swiss flag inverted.

It came from a world where all the Swiss have little beards and make really bad chocolate.

Re:So, what did the Swiss have to say about this? (-1, Flamebait)

doit3d (936293) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535219)

The red cross is the swiss flag inverted. The Red Cross founder was swiss.
You are only partially correct. The Red Cross flag is an inverted Swiss flag, but the founder (Clara Barton, a civil war nurse), was born in Massachusetts. I have worked as an executive at a local chapter, as well as having been a volunteer for many years, so I do know what I'm talking about. You should have never been modded informative.

Re:So, what did the Swiss have to say about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535581)

The red cross is the swiss flag inverted. The Red Cross founder was swiss.
You are only partially correct. The Red Cross flag is an inverted Swiss flag, but the founder (Clara Barton, a civil war nurse), was born in Massachusetts. I have worked as an executive at a local chapter, as well as having been a volunteer for many years, so I do know what I'm talking about. You should have never been modded informative.
You also are only partially correct. Clara Barton was the founder of the American Red Cross, however the Red Cross Movement was founded eighteen years earlier by Henry Dunant (a Swiss businessman).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Red_Cross_and_Red_Crescent_Movement#History_of_the_Movement [wikipedia.org]

A mark of SATAN this inverted cross is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535429)

The power of christ compels you - - - to kill !!

.. and use has become more difficult (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534717)

AFAIK the Swiss have now passed laws to regulate the use of probably the world's best known trademark.

Maybe they'll go after J&J now? Could be fun..

Unless you use our likeness... we support you. (2, Insightful)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534375)

" Mr. Monseau (Johnson & Johnson spokesperson) added, "The company does remain committed to the longstanding mission of the Red Cross to provide relief services." "

It's pretty cold for a company to claim it supports T.R.C.'s humanitarian cause, while suing them.

Re:Unless you use our likeness... we support you. (4, Insightful)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534407)

Given the J&J and the ARC have had been using the symbol for about as long as each other and had an agreement to share it, it's pretty cold of the ARC to be selling it to J&J's competitors.

Re:Unless you use our likeness... we support you. (3, Interesting)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534639)

Kind of... the Red Cross (as a humanitarian symbol) has been in use since the 1860s. Johnson & Johnson started using the symbol in the 1880s, and trademarked it in 1905. Although the symbol is protected by international law US law made an exception for Johnson & Johnson as they had trademarked it before the US got round to passing a law to protect the humanitarian use of the symbol. I'm not hugely impressed with the ARC licensing the internationally recognised and protected humanitarian symbol to anyone but let's not kid ourselves that J&J are some sort of martyr here - back in the late 1880s they saw an opportunity to exploit a respected symbol before the law changed to prevent it. It's pretty cold of J&J to try this; not because they're legally wrong (which, from TFA, was found to be the case in court) but because morally it's chutzpah.

Re:Unless you use our likeness... we support you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535799)

This isn't a moral problem, of course, since the morals of the case are completely subjective.

Re:Unless you use our likeness... we support you. (2, Informative)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534713)

From the article [iht.com] linked in 'previously discussed [slashdot.org]' you can read (near the bottom):

Johnson & Johnson noted that it had contributed $5 million (Eur 3.62 million) over the past three years to the Red Cross and will continue to make donations.
Apparantly they put their $ where their mouth is, which deserves respect in itself. And regardless how small a part that may be on the annual budget of either J+J or the (American) Red Cross, more than a cool million and a half per year is no small contribution.

Re:Unless you use our likeness... we support you. (2)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535523)

Apparantly they put their $ where their mouth is, which deserves respect in itself. And regardless how small a part that may be on the annual budget of either J+J or the (American) Red Cross, more than a cool million and a half per year is no small contribution.
Actually that's a damn pitiful contribution of cash/supplies as that doesn't even cover the cost of 3 truck loads of bandages/gloves and other basic medical supplies each year. Now if they were talking about that much on an annual basis, then I'd be willing to accept the definition about it not being a small contribution. Simply put, One million Dollars a year is what J&J Spends in Petty Cash and they'd never even notice such a contribution.

Re:Unless you use our likeness... we support you. (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 5 years ago | (#23535005)

It's pretty cold for a company to claim it supports T.R.C.'s humanitarian cause, while suing them.
They support the American Red Cross' humanitarian cause, just not their commercial licensing cause.

We all know what a "Johnson" is... (2, Informative)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534381)

Every once in a while, the douchebags who spend their lives making the rest of us miserable get a well-deserved kick in the crotch. This is one of those times.

The only other occasion I can think of off the top of my head where something like this happened is when the World Wrestling Federation tried to lawyer the (much older) World Wildlife Fund out of its right to use "WWF". What is it they call the giant men who grope each other these days? I can't recall, but it certainly doesn't have an "F" at the end of it.

Re:We all know what a "Johnson" is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534561)

Yeah, except J&J was only suing the Red Cross for licensing J&J's trademark to competing companies. So apparently, the court is A-OK with trademark confusion now.

Whatever, Intellectual Property is pretty screwed up to begin with. I'm glad I'm not a lawyer... )Oh, and

Re:We all know what a "Johnson" is... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534581)

HA! revisionist history!

the World Wildlife Federation sued the World Wrestling Federation not the other way around, This however, is shockingly on topic.

The WWF (as in wrestling) was actually allowed to use the mark for certain uses, they got in trouble when they attached it to merchandise (commercial exploitation) Heres a link to the contract between the two WWF's http://contracts.corporate.findlaw.com/agreements/wwf/worldwildlife.1997.01.20.html [findlaw.com] WARNING: actual contract text, lots of legalese

This is actually the reverse problem, the charity is now exploiting the mark J&J own, yes its J&J's since 1887. It took an act of congress to let the ARC use the emblem. Despite this both companies have a history of cooperating, even to the point of sending legal briefs together to third parties using the mark, J&J asserting their trade mark and the ARC quoting 18 U.S.C. 706, which prohibited use of "the emblem of the Greek red cross on a white ground, or any sign or insignia made or colored in imitation thereof " by anyone other than "the American National Red Cross and its duly authorized employees and agents and the sanitary and hospital authorities of the armed forces of the United States." J&J retained their trademark thanks to a grandfather clause; "This section shall not make unlawful the use of any such emblem, sign, insignia or words which was lawful on the date of enactment of this title."

Now the ARC is letting other commercial entities who are in direct competition with J&J use the mark on their own product, and are excusing it by saying that they are raising money for a charity. The really funny part is that its not just a trademark case the same law that protects the red cross, 18 U.S.C. 706, prohibits the use of the mark by anyone else, the red cross doesn't have the legal power to licence that mark to anyone.

I can feel the karma burn from siding with the big bad corporation here but I gotta say, if I was in J&J's position I'd have sued too.

Re:We all know what a "Johnson" is... (2, Informative)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534617)

The only other occasion I can think of off the top of my head where something like this happened is when the World Wrestling Federation tried to lawyer the (much older) World Wildlife Fund out of its right to use "WWF". What is it they call the giant men who grope each other these days? I can't recall, but it certainly doesn't have an "F" at the end of it.
You have the details of this pretty turned around.

The World Wildlife Fund sat around, saying nothing for years and years as the wrestling organization was prospering. Then, when the wrestling organization was running into it's first financial hurdles, they pounced and dragged them into court in Europe-- knowing such BS wouldn't work in US courts at the time.

Not wanting to bother with another legal battle, the wrestling organization simply changed their name and carried on.

It wasn't a good thing in my opinion. It was pretty bad. This leaves the door open for any corporation to sue the pants off another over three letter acronyms, even in completely unrelated types of businesses.

Also, I won't be contributing money anytime soon to a supposedly charitable organization who spends the money given to them on "protecting trademarks" when the differences in the businesses is completely obvious.

Re:We all know what a "Johnson" is... (4, Informative)

Khaed (544779) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534705)

The only other occasion I can think of off the top of my head where something like this happened is when the World Wrestling Federation tried to lawyer the (much older) World Wildlife Fund out of its right to use "WWF". What is it they call the giant men who grope each other these days? I can't recall, but it certainly doesn't have an "F" at the end of it.

Um, no, and you're really, really off base here.

They had an agreement that allowed the wrestling-WWF to use the "WWF" so long as they didn't step on the wildlife-WWF's toes in any way. Then after a while the wrestling-WWF started doing stuff that the wildlife-WWF didn't like as they got more "racy" and, well, basically turned into "let's see how far we can go!" type stuff (including, and I'm not kidding, an 80 year old former female wrestler giving birth to an adult human hand). The wildlife-WWF didn't want to be associated with that sort of junk(understandable at this point), and sued to have them stop using "WWF". At no point did the wrestling-WWF initiate any sort of lawyering against the wildlife-WWF. Now they call themselves "World Wrestling Entertainment." I mean, hell -- would YOU want to be associated with them?

The "WWE" has enough facts that make them look like a bunch of creeps that there's no need to spread falsehoods (even if it's not intentional) about them. It's basically Jackass in tights without the funny. I mean, really -- adult human hand birthing? And that's just ONE of the absurd things I can think of off the top of my head... and those are limited to just the few horrifically stupid and atrocious things I know of that they did. Fortunately, the stupid epidemic is wearing off and their ratings have been in decline. Unfortunately, their viewership seems to be watching American Idol instead...

Re:We all know what a "Johnson" is... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534941)

... 80 year old former female wrestler giving birth to an adult human hand ...


Photos or it didn't happen.

And we all know what Polo is, too... (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534815)

Ralph Lauren actually sued the US Polo Association. In a victory for common sense, Ralph Lauren lost.

Re:We all know what a "Johnson" is... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535095)

What is it they call the giant men who grope each other these days? I can't recall, but it certainly doesn't have an "F" at the end of it.
Uh, "poof?"

Trademark lawsuits have become a joke. (2, Insightful)

uxbn_kuribo (1146975) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534387)

I'm glad this one got thrown out. How these companies keep getting away with trying to trademark common words or symbols is beyond me. And this one wasn't even as bad as the crap that Monster Cables keeps trying to pull. I mean, seriously, who would ever think that Monster Cable had anything to do with Fenway Park's Green Monster, the 1985 Chicago Bears, or Monster Energy Drink? Did they invent the word Monster? Should they sue the tabloids for calling child molesters monsters? I mean, hell, even Triple H has brought litigation against rapper The Game. Companies get away with this crap because 90% of the people they sue would rather settle out of court. But enough is enough. Judges need to start throwing that crap out.

Re:Trademark lawsuits have become a joke. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534519)

I'm glad this one got thrown out. How these companies keep getting away with trying to trademark common words or symbols is beyond me.
You do realize that J&J had trademarked the symbol before the Red Cross chose to use it.

Re:Trademark lawsuits have become a joke. (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534607)

Check your math. The International Committee of the Red Cross started using the Red Cross emblem in 1863. According to the previous slashdot article J&J started using the logo in 1887. 1863 1887.

Re:Trademark lawsuits have become a joke. (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534613)

That last part should be "1863 is less than 1887". Slashdot sucked up my less than sign.

Re:Trademark lawsuits have become a joke. (1)

Echnin (607099) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534773)

Not true. The Red Cross has used it since 1863, and J&J since 1887. The Red Cross were just beat in the US (and the US only) to getting it registered as a trade mark. I wonder where J&J got the idea for using a red cross as a marker for medical supplies if not from the organization red cross.

The perils of generic trademarks (1, Informative)

1 a bee (817783) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534425)

IANALB it seems obvious that a red cross is too generic a mark for trademark purposes. This is an old symbol [seiyaku.com] and is a poor choice for use as a trademark for commercial purposes, anyway. Apparently, it took an act of congress [cornell.edu]to make this "red cross" a mark protected under the law.

Now as a consumer of band-aids I have a confession to make: I think I've always subliminally associated the product with the Red Cross. So from my viewpoint, it could be argued that it is J&J that has been infringing on the American Red Cross's mark.

-- IANALB: IANAL but..

Court's got it wrong again.... (4, Insightful)

MBC1977 (978793) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534557)

Maybe this will sound jacked up, but I was hoping that J&J would win this case. Considering that both companies have been around for near equal amounts of time (one commercial and one non-commercial) for the Red Cross to decide they now want to licence their trademark like a commercial entity, validates J&J's point of view. J&J wasn't asking for the Red Cross to not use the "red cross", they just wanted them not to be able to licence it out (since it would reduce the value of their trademark), and in that case J&J is right.

Perhaps the ARC should have considered this application when negotiating in 1895 or so... or at the least recompense J&J for the dilution of their brand.

Re:Court's got it wrong again.... (5, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534623)

J&J wasn't asking for the Red Cross to not use the "red cross", they just wanted them not to be able to license it out (since it would reduce the value of their trademark)
Except that their trademark has value largely because they copied it from the Red Cross.

How do you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534653)

How do you trademark a symbol that has been worn by millions of medics around the world for decades, maybe even centuries?

T-Mobile claimed the color magenta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23534821)

The next case could be the T-Mobile claim of the color magenta for their logo and ads. Several print shops in Europe got a letter from T-Mobile to end the use of magenta in their logos. CMYK is the basic hue set in the printing industry so the use of that set of colors in print shop logos is common.

http://www.freemagenta.nl/

Ernst

It is the ARC that was making money off the symbol (4, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#23534969)

...and this is what J&J was contesting. J&J was more than happy to let the symbol be used for NON-PROFIT purposes, but the ARC has been using it to make money off of it, and PROHIBITING its use by other organizations!

I know it's easy to flame the big corporation (and I hate big corps more than the average slashdotter, as I've been working in such for many years before I redeemed my freedom), but in this particular case it's the ARC that's abusing a symbol that should be free of commercial ties. J&J let the ARC use it, but when the ARC started "subletting" it to make money, J&J had a problem with that.

Steve Balmer used to work for J&J (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535031)

That says a lot.

The reasoning sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535079)

Yes, I like the outcome, but the reasoning is terrifyingly stupid. If you win by chance, you will eventually lose.

Hang on a moment! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23535703)

This is a United Nations pinko attack on a decent American company.

J&J copyrighted that symbol fair and square. We are the most powerful nation in the world - that's gotta mean something. Why are we putting up with this - we should invade those red cross countries and show them who's boss!

Anything in the world an American wants he should get - what else the hell are nukes for??
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