Sunday, August 12, 2007

J&J vs Red Cross, part 2

Johnson and Johnson is suing the Red Cross for trademark infringement; JNJ claims ownership of the symbol predating the Red Cross' use, but the two parties agreed that the Red Cross would use it for non-commercial purposes. However, the Red Cross licensed the symbol to for-profit parties to sell Red Cross-branded goods as a fundraiser, many of which seem to compete with J&J's products.

However, one commenter pointed out that J&J was wrong:

The Red Cross symbol actually was originally used by Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross movement and the American Red Cross in 1881, prior to the creation of Johnson and Johnson in 1886. The symbol is actually "stolen" from the Swiss flag and is a reversal of the color scheme of that flag. Clara Barton designed the emblem out of respect for Switzerland's long stance on neutrality during war-- a belief she shared when she began the relief mission of the Red Cross during the Civil War. She allowed J&J to use the symbol. I could understand J&J's position if somehow the American Red Cross was creating an economic hardship or substancial loss of revenue, but this is simply not the case. Besides Congress recognized the ARC's right to use the symbol in the futherance of its mission BY STATUTE. I think this is extremely bad PR on the part of J&J even if they outspend the Red Cross into legal defeat.

Indeed, if you check the Wikipedia article, the red cross was first used as a symbol as early as 1864 on the battlefield by rescue parties.

That being the case, it is J&J's actions that seem to be ill-advised. So ill-advised, in fact, that a report suggests that Switzerland is suing them, but not the Red Cross, for trademark infringement.

Switzerland (Rotters) - Late this evening, Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey announced that Switzerland would be pursuing a lawsuit for damages with the American medical supply company Johnson & Johnson, who had earlier announced a lawsuit against the American Red Cross seeking lost income, punitive damages, and an agreement to cease using what it claimed was their patented Red Cross logo. Calmy-Rey also announced that effective immediately the biggest national Bank, Credit Suisse would be ordered to freeze all assets of Johnson & Johnson that it held.
"Everyone knows that the Swiss, and our proud cross flag stand for neutrality, aid and help in all forms, and obscene wealth," stated President Calmy-Rey. "It has been this way worldwide for centuries before anyone even began selling medical supplies. Johnson & Johnson has grown and profited to the point that it has blurred this boundary, encroaching upon and threatening to steal the very identity of our country. What the American Red Cross and other international agencies bearing our symbol have done, on the other hand, has lent a positive image to our humble country's time-honored traditions, and they certainly have posed no financial threat. We resent that Johnson & Johnson seems to be seeking to profit unfairly from our well-established reputation for financial stability."

A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson dismissed the country's lawsuit out of hand. "There is no encroachment here," stated the spokesperson, "and we will fight this lawsuit to the end. Our symbol that the Red Cross has profited from, is by definition a "Red Cross" on a white background. The Swiss symbol is a white cross on a red background, a clear difference, and certainly not a source of confusion for the average person. If the Swiss persist with this ridiculously opportunistic lawsuit, we will prevail. We would look forward to the acquisition of Swiss Army Knives, and all related gear and apparel."

In a related story, international aid agency, the Red Crescent Organization, has announced that it is considering a lawsuit against the country of Turkey over defamation of character.

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