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American Red Cross Sued For Using a Red Cross

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the hard-to-win-a-pissing-match-with-a-saint dept.

The Almighty Buck 739

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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First Post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168223)

sigh... kind of like two nuns fighting over the offering plate

I understand... (5, Insightful)

techpawn (969834) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168225)

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... (4, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 7 years ago | (#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".

Re:I understand... (5, Funny)

techpawn (969834) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168317)

As long as that "X" isn't a red one...

Re:I understand... (4, Informative)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | more than 7 years ago | (#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... (1)

dlZ (798734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168439)

Myself and my fiance are both big fans of the Method products. They tend to not be too much more expensive and they really do a great job. I know Target and Wegmans (for those in the NE) both carry them.

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

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168329)

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

Re:I understand... (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168547)

I think it's also relevant to ask oneself: "What would Jesus do?"

Re:I understand... (5, Funny)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168595)

If JC came back, the last thing he'd want to look at is a fucking cross.

Let the Swiss sue J&J (4, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168421)

... 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.

Re:Let the Swiss sue J&J (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168473)

"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"

No it doesn't. Stop getting your trademark law advice from "trademarks for dummies" you sound fucking stupid regurgutating obviously wrong information.

Re:Let the Swiss sue J&J (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168571)

Does too. Good luck trademarking the hebrew star, crescent or French tricolor. Moron.

A little apropos Latin (1)

Potor (658520) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168455)

In hoc signo vinces. [wikipedia.org]

April (-1, Troll)

panxerox (575545) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168233)

1st? Wait what? thats just... Bung holes, can't wrap mind around the stupidity. The shot in foot heard round the world.

Johnson & Johnson are RIGHT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168241)

I mean, trademarks & logos disputes revolve around recognition right? I'd say even a moron in hurry would think this American RRed Cross first aid bag [sdarc.org] was a J&J product right?

(humour)

Re:Johnson & Johnson are RIGHT! (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168411)

I wonder if Wolfestien got the right to use the trademark from J&J or from the redcross.

Nice one big pharma (1, Insightful)

Bayoudegradeable (1003768) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168243)

Leave it to big pharma to release the legal hounds. I guess the profit margins must be getting pretty slim for them to start harassing the ARC. Most likely they don't want anyone to think they are handing out relief supplies to people suffering from disasters... think what that would do to investor confidence.... handing out stuff for free!?? Horrors.... No, no, no! Handouts bad! Profit good!

Damages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168247)

When would the red cross want to pass off as a bloated pharma/consumer tat company? I can't see J&J demonstating damages or the potential for damages.

ob (5, Insightful)

edittard (805475) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168251)

Prior heart. As in Lion, Richard the.

Re:ob (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168605)

King Richard I didn't sell medical supplies. He was more into creating a demand for them.

J&J might not want to push this (2, Interesting)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168255)

Actually, I'm not sure if it matters if they push this or not. The red cross symbol has become synonymous with 'First Aid' in the public mind. Like it or not, they might lose this suit against a company that just started 3 days ago, let alone the Red Cross.

Re:J&J might not want to push this (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168331)

The red cross symbol has become synonymous with 'First Aid' in the public mind.
When I was a kid sure, but for some reason I often see something like an X with a vertical bar through the middle these days. In green.

But I'm not that old, so that makes it pretty late to claim IMH(NL)O.

Re:J&J might not want to push this (1)

Fast Thick Pants (1081517) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168583)

The red cross symbol has become synonymous with 'First Aid' in the public mind.
When I was a kid sure, but for some reason I often see something like an X with a vertical bar through the middle these days. In green.
Probably a stylized caduceus [wikipedia.org]

Re:J&J might not want to push this (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168637)

Probably not [wikipedia.org] .

Re:J&J might not want to push this (5, Insightful)

TheNicestGuy (1035854) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168509)

The red cross symbol has become synonymous with 'First Aid' in the public mind.

Which is exactly why the Red Cross has been putting a lot of effort for years into tightening their grip on that mark. Let's be clear about something, people. I know the knee-jerk reaction is to root for the charitable organization over the big corporation, but I've got to point out a little hypocrisy on the part of the Red Cross president. I have never before seen a cease-and-desist letter from Johnson & Johnson for the use of this mark. I have, however, seen them from the Red Cross.

Some years ago I worked for a company that publishes clip art collections. We maintained a list of "bad elements" that slipped into our sources because it didn't occur to the artists that they were protected by IP law, but that we had received legal notices about. The red cross was one of our biggest offenders (alongside Weber-shaped grills, Olympic rings, cars that looked too much like Beetles, etc.). It was the ARC, not Johnson & Johnson, that made work for me converting them all to puke green. (That's the standard IP-neutral first aid symbol now, by the way: a butt-ugly fluorescent green cross.) I'd often wondered how Johnson & Johnson got away with it, and figured they must have some sort of agreement since they'd both been using it for so long.

So you're right that the defensibility of ownership for either of them is a little iffy, but the fact that I've started to see that horrible green in more places means that it's starting to become known that somebody owns it. My gut tells me that it's usually the ARC that people think of (or get letters from), but if they're now starting to directly compete in the market with Johnson & Johnson, who knows which way a judge or jury would go?

More than that (1)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168537)

It seems J&J began using the trademark in 1887...
Come on now. Isn't there some sort of statute of limitations on something like this? You'd think that something like this, if it really was harmful to J&J, would have been settled decades ago.
Lawyers never cease to amaze me.

Re:J&J might not want to push this (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168653)

I just have to say, there is so much ... "wrong" about this case.

The red cross symbol has become synonymous with 'First Aid' in the public mind.

Yes, but you could say the same thing with respect to the Red Cross -- why should they be able to monpolize a symbol already generecided to mean "First Aid"?

What bothered me as well was the part about how the ARC uses the symbol "on fund-raising products such as home emergency kits." Um, hello? Isn't ARC a non-profit organization devoted to saving lives? Wouldn't "making sure everyone has a home emergency kit" fall under this? So why would they use that as a profit center, when the provision of the kits *itself* achieves the group's goals. If my point isn't clear, it would be like the NRA charging for access to the part of the site where you can learn how to contact your senator.

I figured they would restrict fundraising activities to e.g. selling non-vital items.

un-fucking-believable (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168257)

On the other hand, can the Catholic Church sue J&J for trademark violation of the "cross"?

Re:un-fucking-believable (1)

damian cosmas (853143) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168431)

No. The Roman Empire can demonstrate prior art.

Re:un-fucking-believable (1)

yada21 (1042762) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168665)

They nicked the idea of crucifiction fronm the carthaginain's.

Classic case of trade mark infringment. (5, Interesting)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168261)

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.

Actually this case is legit (5, Insightful)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168281)

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:Actually this case is legit (2, Insightful)

k_187 (61692) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168299)

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:Actually this case is legit (1)

bpjk (305635) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168553)

But if they force this and J&J's competitors are no longer allowed to use it, then J&J will be the only brand using this very recognisable, associated with charity relief and aid, world-wide logo.

Would that then not be unfair competition?

Re:Actually this case is legit (1)

k_187 (61692) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168601)

J&J's mark isn't assoicated w/ chairty relief and the suit isn't going to stop the ARC from using it as such. J&J is suing to stop ARC from licensing it to J&J competitors.

Re:Actually this case is legit (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168397)

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.

No problem, give them the cross... (0)

xtracto (837672) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168375)

So they want their cross? fine, just use any [wikipedia.org] of the available [wikimedia.org] alternative symbols!

I would love to see how the fanatic catholic population of the USA react after getting help from the Red Crescent .

In all seriously... it does shows you to what extent corporations have no "soul" or common sense... shees guys it is the red cross.

Re:Classic case of trade mark infringment. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168385)

J&J have the trademark in the area of medicines.
For "J&J" yes. For an inverse Swiss flag, my arse.

Re:Classic case of trade mark infringment. (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168405)

except that J&J stole that symbol for use as their own trademark?

The case boils down to two questions, AFAIK (2, Interesting)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168413)

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 often safely use a trademark without stepping on each other's legal rights. If not, then the ACR's century of use of the symbol is meaningless in considering whether their current use represents a violation for the new purposes they're putting it towards.

At any rate, J&J's lawyers have to have a feeling that they've got a good chance of winning or else they wouldn't even try. There's no company advantage to going head to head against one of the world's most recognized humanitarian aid charities (and almost certainly a good customer of J&J's) unless they're sure they can win.

Re:Classic case of trade mark infringment. (2, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168575)

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 J&J lawyers again) will say Johnson and Johnson products.

The ARC could easily argue that J&J's trademark has become genericized, and if J&J continues to pursue the case, the ARC may be forced to do that. I don't think the ARC wants to have to do that, though, because the ICRC has at times been involved in trying to protect its own reserved use of the red cross symbol. I really don't see this case going to trial, because both sides have something to lose no matter what the outcome is.

Re:Classic case of trade mark infringment. (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168603)

most people think the Red Cross is a good organisation.

And for the most part it is... But the ARC has been accused of massive mismanagement and corruption at the top - the same place THIS issue is coming from...

Originality? (5, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168267)

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:Originality? (2, Informative)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168303)

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? (2, Informative)

nazh (604234) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168435)

Their First Aid products uses the cross, you can find it on their Band-Aid [band-aid.com] site.

Re:Originality? (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168511)

J+J apparently use the red cross on first aids to make them look like Red Cross first aid kids, so this is really really twisted

Re:Originality? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168569)

The thing is, where exactly is the red cross J+J mark used?
http://www.jnjfirstaid.com/ [jnjfirstaid.com]

Re:Originality? (1)

djones101 (1021277) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168597)

Granted this is only a quick example (and I'm not promoting CVS in any way), but you can see one example here [cvs.com] . Now, overall, IANAL, but I fail to see how they can trademark something as simple as a red cross. That would be tantamount to me trademarking the black filled-in circle. I could then sue the makers of Scantron for infringing on my trademark by putting examples of black filled-in circles on their sheets. Crosses have been around for a LONG time, and I'd hazard to guess that people have found ways to paint or dye them red for quite a while as well. Heck, if someone was nailed up on a cross and bled all over the thing to turn it red, would they be infringing on J&J's trademark?

Re:Originality? (1)

moshennik (826059) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168353)

I think the issue is not the use of the symbol itself, but rather a use of it in order to sell commercial products, that are in direct competition with the trademark owner products. The interesting part of the article to me was that J&J would keep donating money to Red Cross, which means they would fund lawyers on both sides of this.

Re:Originality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168587)

Well, I guess the writing's on the wall: J+J will just have to go sue the Army next. And then, they'll take down the church--long time offender there. And then there's little Suzy in kindergarten who just wanted to use the red crayons... Somebody ought to have told her to add the TM symbol...

Switzerland (4, Funny)

Tiberius_Fel (770739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168269)

Great, now Switzerland will get involved and claim that the red cross is obviously a derivative work of their flag...

Re:Switzerland (1, Interesting)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168309)

Switzerland's flag is a white cross on a red background.

If you want to talk about a flag that contains a red cross on a white background then look at the Cross of St. George, which is the national flag of England (and thus part of the Union Flag), as well as its derivatives, including the national flags of Northern Ireland and Malta.

Re:Switzerland (2, Informative)

Tiberius_Fel (770739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168347)

I am well aware of what Switzerland's flag looks like, but just switching the colours would make it slightly different (hence, derivative work). But this was a joke, which I somehow get the impression you missed. :)

Re:Switzerland (5, Informative)

the agent man (784483) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168457)

no, its not a joke. The Red Cross was intentionally designed based on the Swiss flag by reversing the color scheme. In other words it IS derivative work. This happened in 1864 by the IKRK. The Red Cross is an international, not just an American, organization with its root in Switzerland. Switzerland should sue J+J. In case you can read German: http://www.geschichte-schweiz.ch/schweizer-flagge- schweizerkreuz.html [geschichte-schweiz.ch]

Re:Switzerland (2, Informative)

Tiberius_Fel (770739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168633)

Gah, I was unclear again. My line about Switzerland suing was the joke. I believed he was serious. :-) And I can read German, actually. I'll translate the relevant part of the "Das Rote Kreuz" section: The Red Cross During the founding of the International Committees of the Red Cross, on the Initiative of Henri Dunant and General Dufour, in 1864 Dufour suggested the reversal of the Swiss Cross (Red on White Background) as the emblem.

Re:Switzerland (1)

DrJokepu (918326) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168465)

Switzerland's flag is a white cross on a red background.

If you want to talk about a flag that contains a red cross on a white background then look at the Cross of St. George, which is the Inational flag of England (and thus part of the Union Flag), as well as its derivatives, including the national flags of Northern Ireland and Malta.

According to the Wikipedia:

The Red Cross on white background was the original protection symbol declared at the 1864 Geneva Convention. It is, in terms of its color, a reversal of the Swiss national flag, a meaning which was adopted to honor Swiss founder Henry Dunant and his home country.
The Red Cross flag is indeed a derivate of the Swiss national flag.

Re:Switzerland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168359)

Funny you say that...seems I read somewhere that the reason the red cross used a red cross in a white field is because the Swiss were already using a white cross in a red field. (As in, the Swiss flag is what they would have preferred)

Re:Switzerland (1)

andrewbaldwin (442273) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168399)

I realise that you're striking a humourous note here but you are closer to the truth than you think...I believe that Henri Dunant deliberately chose to invert the Swiss flag as the emblem for the organisation.

Re:Switzerland (1)

Zorglub1234 (794962) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168415)

Great, now Switzerland will get involved and claim that the red cross is obviously a derivative work of their flag...
Well, they potentially could, since it is true; see for example Wikipedia (Swiss flag [wikipedia.org] ):

The Red Cross symbol used by the International Committee of the Red Cross is based on the Swiss flag. The Red Cross on white background was the original protection symbol declared at the 1864 Geneva Convention. It is, in terms of its color, a reversal of the Swiss national flag, a meaning which was adopted to honor Swiss native and Red Cross founder Henry Dunant.
Or the International Comitee of the Red Cross [icrc.org] website:

Since the emblem was to reflect the neutrality of the armed forces' medical services and the protection conferred on them, the emblem adopted was formed by reversing the colours of the Swiss flag.
(both articles do not cite the same origin, but agree that the red cross is based on the Swiss flag).

Zorglub

Re:Switzerland (1)

Himring (646324) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168419)

You obviously flunked history. Switzerland will remain blindingly neutral....

Imagine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168273)

Can't you just see it... in the corporate offices of Johnson and Johnson:
Billy-bob and Goober are rocking back and forth in their executive chairs seething in rage about the %@^!* Red Cross much as their father and grandfather did.
Then suddenly, a tornado hits Kansas and you see news reports with the American Red Cross helping people
Goober Johnson suddenly snaps and yells "those BASTARDS. We will SUE you for using that symbol"

Wow... (1)

ricebowl (999467) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168277)

I realise that it's a valid trademark protection, and so required by trademark rules/laws in order for J&J to keep that mark but...wow.

Suing a charity seems like a ridiculous, albeit efficient, way to garner negative publicity and shoot oneself in the foot in terms of reducing positive mind-share in the general public (assuming that the general public are made aware of this through the news outlets, of course).

An easier resolution would surely have been a no-cost license to/for charitable concerns, thereby reducing costs (of law-suits), reducing negative publicity (suing a charity) and enforcing patent-protection (or whatever, since it's licensed to the third party, not being used without permission).

Of course all of this sort of requires that the red cross mark in question is near-enough identical to confuse a moron in a hurry, or whatever the correct term is...

Ah, legally-minded businesses, first the RIAA and MPAA and now this...

Re:Wow... (5, Informative)

dwarfking (95773) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168409)

As I heard the story this morning, the issue is the J & J licensed the use of the red cross trademark to the ARC so long as it was not used for profit.

ARC has now re-licensed the trademark they do not own to for-profit organizations to put on their products, some of which compete with J & J products directly. Yes, the ARC will get a portion of the proceeds from these sales, but the other companies make a profit at the expense of the J & J trademark.

So J & J has no choice but to sue the ARC to prevent them from sub-licensing the trademark they do not own.

Take the emotions out of the discussion, this is purely business. No, it is not big pharma beating on a poor charity, it is a trademark licensee abusing a license agreement in such a way the owner of the trademark is negatively impacted. Until J & J officially turns the trademark over to the ARC, they own and they must defend it.

Re:Wow... (1)

ricebowl (999467) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168625)

I realise that it's a valid trademark protection, and so required by trademark rules/laws in order for J&J to keep that mark but...wow.

Take the emotions out of the discussion, this is purely business. No, it is not big pharma beating on a poor charity, it is a trademark licensee abusing a license agreement in such a way the owner of the trademark is negatively impacted. Until J & J officially turns the trademark over to the ARC, they own and they must defend it.

Agreed; as I noted above this is a valid application of trademark rules/laws and I support J&J in their decision to curb the ARC's sub-licensing of the trademark; however rather than sue a charity I feel it would have worked better for J&J to have negotiated with the charity rather than go to court. If only because of the publicity associated with the case.

The fact that the mentioned for-profit businesses licensed the patents from the ARC rather than J&J suggest that there is a further income to be gained from the mark, but perhaps J&J are setting the prices too high. In that instance I'd have to suggest that J&J review their terms and conditions and view this as an opportunity to improve their standing, rather than going to court and acting like 'big pharma.'

Johnson & Johnson are not in the wrong here, I (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168283)

J & J have every right to do this. They have been letting the ARC use the symbol on non-commercial products for years. J & J want ARC to stop using their trade-marked image on commercial products.

-Too Lazy To Register AC

Radio Shack sues for circle-R use (5, Funny)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Hmmm tricky (0)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168319)

This seems like a sticky issue:

J&J may have a ~right~ to do this, but it seems like it might not be the smartest thing to do (PR-wise).

On the other hand, if they don't take action to protect their trademark, they may face the prospect of loosing it.

I think the important take-away here is that our Intellectual Property laws are really messed up. The Red cross (chartered or not) has been using that symbol long before J&J), so it seems kind of broken that J&J gets to tell the Red cross what they can do with it just because they weren't on the ball enough to have registered it first.

Oblig. Underpants Gnome Meme Reference:

1) Find a company with a successful product that has failed to get a trademark on it
2) Register it yourself, then sue them
3) PROFIT!!!

catholic church sues J&J? (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168323)

Obviously this isn't going to happen-- the "cross" is too widely distributed for anyone to claim a trademark on it-- regardless of color. Also-- hasn't the "red cross" always been a symbol for medical aid, ie) in warfare?

Misleading Summary—Not Just Infringement (5, Informative)

danaris (525051) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168333)

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:Misleading Summary—Not Just Infringement (0, Flamebait)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168607)


Hey ass-face, read the article, again:

"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."

PROFITS FROM SALES WENT TO BOOST RED CROSS DISASTER-RESPONSE EFFORTS.

Someone call out the bunco squad! Yeah Johnson and Johnson must be really hurting by these sales of safety kits.

Get over it, the Johnson and Johnson will lose this case. The greater question should be, can you trade mark a red cross? Considering there is prior art for the red cross - any war the uses the red cross to denote a hospital for example, it's hard to allow an invidual company to own such a symbol.

Re:Misleading Summary—Not Just Infringement (2, Insightful)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168661)

Doesn't matter where the profits went. If the relicensing broke a contract, J&J has the right to sue based on that breach of contract.

According to Wikipedia (2, Informative)

rainlord (773007) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168345)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a private humanitarian institution founded in 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland. Its 25-member committee has a unique authority under international humanitarian law to protect the life and dignity of the victims of international and internal armed conflicts.

Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_cross [wikipedia.org] - which would be more than 6 years prior to J&J forming and starting to use the same symbol. Besides (although IANAL) it should be, as others have and will mention, prior art. The cross is a symbol for many things, and I'm sue it's been used on packaging (such as the bible, which is a product to some degree) for many many years prior to J&J coming along.

Re:According to Wikipedia (0, Troll)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168461)

You mean that we had en.wikipedia.org back then too?
Wow, imagine being ahead of your times , way before the internet even existed!

In other news... (0, Troll)

voislav98 (1004117) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168363)

J&J is suing catholic church for use of the cross and demands that it be removed from all the church buildings. When asked about the validity of their claim, J&J spokesperson replied that they feel that since the time is relative, they have as much right to the simbol as the church.

Red Cross' own fault? (3, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 7 years ago | (#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 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Trademark, not copyright, you dope (1)

danaris (525051) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168611)

Public domain and copyright have nothing whatsoever to do with this, anonymous twit.

This is about trademarks.

Dan Aris

Satan (0, Offtopic)

Himring (646324) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168389)

When asked to respond to J&J's lawsuit Satan replied, "dayum!"

Maybe Switzerland should sue J&J (3, Interesting)

CaptainZapp (182233) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168391)

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. (3, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#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?

cease and desist (1)

ArcadeX (866171) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168437)

I'm going to trademark the periond. /. will just become /

next thing you know people will have a patent on things like using a shopping cart online, which would really screw over online retailers. If a non artistically inclined four year old can make it with a box of crayons, it should be public domain...

License (1)

Stormcrow309 (590240) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168441)

If I was J&J, I would license the red cross to the red cross for some paltry amount, $1, and then write off the rest of my license fee as a charitable contribution.

Understandable why they're suing. (1)

mrjb (547783) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168443)

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.

Oh my. Look- they've been abusing our trademark for over a century. Hey- that's unfair! The bastards! There is only so much abuse we can take! This abuse has got to stop NOW! SUE THEM!

Re:Understandable why they're suing. (1)

mrjb (547783) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168469)

Sorry, I got a bit carried away. Got to think about my blood pressure. I feel much better now, thank you.

International law shurely (0, Troll)

rpjs (126615) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168463)


I thought that the Red Cross was protected under international law and couldn't be used for non-humaitarian purposes.

Oh wait, this is in America, where international law doesn't apply. Sorry.

Switzerland No Longer Neutral (-1, Troll)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168485)

Look out, Switzerland, your flag [wikipedia.org] is close enough to the trademark for Johnson & Johnson to invade.

Finally we'll see whose kung fu is stronger: Swiss Army Knife(TM) vs Band-Aid(TM)!

Suing because the red cross is now liscencing the (0, Redundant)

majortom1981 (949402) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168501)

They are suing the red cross because the red crossis now illegally liscencing the red cross symbol when J&J have had the symbol since they started in the 1800's and they have it trademarked.

J&J actually has a case against the red cross. Stop with this big corp business.

Wasn't this dealt with a long time ago? (1)

Stanislav_J (947290) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168505)

For all my life, I've noted that on J&J products that used the red cross logo, there was also a very explicit statement that the symbol did not indicate any connection with ARC. Corporations don't put such disclaimers on their packaging for fun -- there must have been some legal decision in the past that demanded it.

Next to be sued (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168507)

Everyone with the last name Johnson

Didn't the Red Cross go after video game companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168525)

A while back for using the Red Cross on med packs? I don't have time to search for the story, but if I recall correctly they were going after a couple of companies that make FPS games a couple of years ago for that...

(yay -- i forgot my username and password!)

Can you see this dialogue? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168539)

"Central 911, what's your emergency?"
"Yeah, here's Mrs. Smith, secretary at Johnson&Johnson, our CEO had a heart attack!"
"Sorry, wrong number" *click*

Or, more likely, at the hospital...
"Yeah, here he is, rush him to the ER."
"Slow down, first of all, fill out this form, then this one, then that one, and then give me a moment to check for his credit rating. After all, we don't want to make a terrible, costy mistake, do we? You there! Stop right now, he's not going anywhere 'til the bureaucrats got what they want!"

It might be a bad idea to piss off people who could be of good use when you really, really need them.

Regardless of the legal merits of this case... (2, Insightful)

opaqueice (602509) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168545)

...suing the Red Cross for trademark infringement is unbelievably stupid. Few people are going to bother to RTFA and find out that there might actually be some legitimate dispute here. Instead, they're simply going to hear that a huge rich multinational drug company is suing a charitable organization to stop them from using their own symbol. It's hard to imagine worse PR than that. Whatever minimal financial gain a successful suit might bring will be massively outweighed by the bad publicity, possible boycotts, lowered employee morale, etc.

It's fascinating how such incredibly bad decisions get made. Maybe they've hired Donald Rumsfeld as an advisor?

Publicity stunt (1)

siyavash (677724) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168551)

There's no such thing as bad publicity. Right?

This shit is way too out of hand.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20168567)

We need patent reform in this country. NOW

About "non-profits" (1)

ZoneGray (168419) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168577)

Just because an organization is "non-profit" doesn't mean that it always operates charitably. As with any organization, whether it be commercial, charitable or governmental, its primary goal as an organization is to become a bigger and to have more money pass through its hands. Blue Cross is a perfect example... if you worked at Blue Cross or a private insurer, you'd notice very little difference in the way they operate.

ARC is free to use the logo the same as it always has, but selling licenses to use it is pretty cheeky. I'm sure that ARC enforces their own trademarks just as fervently as JNJ does.

There's an easy fix (1)

simong (32944) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168621)

Change to the Red Crescent world wide. Allah ackbar.

Johnson and Johnson a Family Company! (1)

Grrreat (584733) | more than 7 years ago | (#20168635)

Johnson and Johnson a Family Company! Thats all I had say.

News for who? (5, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#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?
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