T Nation

Red Cross Sued Over Red Cross

Just when you think the system’s hit rock bottom ethics-wise, something like this come along.

Johnson & Johnson sues American Red Cross over use of emblem

Johnson & Johnson, the health-products giant that uses a red cross as its trademark, sued the American Red Cross on Wednesday, demanding that the charity halt the use of the red cross symbol on products it sells to the public.

The floor is open for your cynicisms.

If the article is at all accurate, J&J have very good reason to sue. If you do not show that you are vigorously defending your trademarks, you might lose them when someone else shows that they have been diluted over the years and you have selectively enforced them.

[quote]nephorm wrote:
If the article is at all accurate, J&J have very good reason to sue. If you do not show that you are vigorously defending your trademarks, you might lose them when someone else shows that they have been diluted over the years and you have selectively enforced them.[/quote]

Geez, neph. You just don’t get it. The evil big corp is picking on the poor, defenseless charity. Never mind the fact that the Red Cross is trying to make money using a trademarked logo that legally belongs to someone else. Never mind the fact that there are copyright/trademark laws in this country for a reason.

I mean, really - can’t you just hate the evil corp because it is an evil corp?

I hate evil corps. They do nothing for this country. They should all be made illegal, and all share holders put in jail.

[quote]nephorm wrote:
If the article is at all accurate, J&J have very good reason to sue. If you do not show that you are vigorously defending your trademarks, you might lose them when someone else shows that they have been diluted over the years and you have selectively enforced them.[/quote]

Exactly.

I don’t know, I guess BB would be the person to ask on this one. It gets into a point of contention to me when the one part of the article says “The lawsuit contends that the charter did not empower the Red Cross to engage in commercial activities competing with a private business.”

Point 1–Does that mean they are not allowed to sell anything? Even if the sales go directly to operational expenses to keep the non profit afloat?

Point 2—Is $10 million in sales really competition for J&J? I suppose there is no delineation in the law as to what constitutes competition other than any amount derived from sales.

Finally, while I think the law in in J&J’s favor, what kind of prick move is having the red cross turn over all of those supplies to J&J for destruction? If you really want to stick it to the red cross, then give the stuff out free to people that need it. That is the only thing I see as “evil corporation stuff”

[quote]nephorm wrote:
If the article is at all accurate, J&J have very good reason to sue. If you do not show that you are vigorously defending your trademarks, you might lose them when someone else shows that they have been diluted over the years and you have selectively enforced them.[/quote]

Well, the bad publicity they’re getting by attacking a charity organization far outweighs any monetary gain they might make by this suit. Shit, a red cross on white background is the symbol of the international red cross (hence the name) that was established by the Geneva convetion. The symbol was taken as the negative of the Swiss flag that’s from the 13th century.

I understand that in this particular case might fall under trademark dilution, but it’s still a fucked up system that allows a red cross to become property of a corporation. IP laws should be revised. What’s next? A company suing because somebody else’s using their color? Oh, wait…somebody already did that.

They do not expect any monetary gain regardless of how much they may be asking for. They are merely protecting their trademark because if the don’t defend it ANYONE can start using it.

I though Nephorm explained it pretty well.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
They do not expect any monetary gain regardless of how much they may be asking for. They are merely protecting their trademark because if the don’t defend it ANYONE can start using it.

I though Nephorm explained it pretty well.[/quote]

Yeah, I know. But still…a trademark on a freakin’ red cross? C’mon!

In case you didn’t notice, I’m putting the blame on the system that allows such abuses; not the dear corporations that exploit it.

I do believe that the Red Cross has used the emblem on international battlefields and as a logo for far longer than the 100 years that J&J have been using theirs.Something like 140 years.
But I’ll go have a gander and confirm.

[quote]lixy wrote:

Yeah, I know. But still…a trademark on a freakin’ red cross? C’mon!

In case you didn’t notice, I’m putting the blame on the system that allows such abuses; not the dear corporations that exploit it.[/quote]

How is protecting one’s rights exploiting anything?

If I read the story correctly - and I think I did - J+J is suing for copyright infringement for the Red Cross’ use of the red cross in money making ventures - not to remove the red cross completely. Remember, the Red Cross is a charity, they should not have profit centers. If they are engaged in a trade or business, and are using a trademark registered by another trade or business - they are indeed in violation.

Please show me the exploitation. And while you’re at it - explain how this is an abuse.

International Red Cross Movement
Brief History

�??

1828 (May 8)

Henry Dunant is born in Geneva, Switzerland.

1859 (June 24)

Franco-Sardinian and Austrian troops clash in Battle of Solferino, near northern Italian town of Castiglione della Pieve. Swiss businessman Henry Dunant (aged thirty-one), horrified by the slaughter, helps to care for the wounded of both sides. This battle leads, ultimately, to formation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
1862

Henry Dunant’s book, A Memory of Solferino , is published. In it, he puts forward ways of helping the wounded in wartime.
1863 (Feb17)

The first meeting of the “Committee of Five”, formed to give support to Dunant’s ideas, takes place in Geneva.International Committee formed for relief of military wounded (members Henry Dunant, Gustave Moynier, Louis Appia, Theodore Maunoir and Guillaume-Henri Dufour) . In 1876, committee becomes International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
1863 (Oct26-29)

An international conference, called to launch the Red Cross Movement, opens in Geneva. It is attended by representatives from sixteen countries .A red cross on a white background is adopted as the Movement 's symbol.International Geneva Conference. Adoption of the Red Cross on white background (reverse of Swiss flag) as protective emblem and establishment of national committees for the relief of military wounded.
1864 (Aug 22)

The first Geneva Convention is signed by representatives of twelve countriesTwelve states sign 10 articles forming the first Geneva Convention – protection of international law both to wounded enemy soldiers and those caring for them.
-------------
So the use of the symbol precedes even the first GC.Does that cast a different light on the issue for anyone?
In my view,while the suit may be legal,I’m not convinced of its moral rectitude.
The fact that (if the article is correct) J&J even mention how long they have been using the logo is an attempt to establish a historical claim to it.Otherwise why not say that the IRC has been using it longer?
Just my opinion,i’m sure legally they have a solid case.
Just what is legally correct is not always right.

J&J is suing the A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N Red Cross - not the IRC.

This is the heart of the suit, IMO:

Johnson & Johnson began using the red cross design as a trademark in 1887 �?? six years after the creation of the American Red Cross but before it received its congressional charter in 1900. The lawsuit contends that the charter did not empower the Red Cross to engage in commercial activities competing with a private business.

No evil corp. No abusive system. The red cross is in violation of their charity status if they are engaged in commercial activities.

I don’t see what the confusion is, or why it is not right for a business to protect itself from encroachment by a charity that is not supposed to be engaged in business.

[quote]rainjack wrote:
J&J is suing the A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N Red Cross - not the IRC.

This is the heart of the suit, IMO:

Johnson & Johnson began using the red cross design as a trademark in 1887 �?? six years after the creation of the American Red Cross but before it received its congressional charter in 1900. The lawsuit contends that the charter did not empower the Red Cross to engage in commercial activities competing with a private business.

No evil corp. No abusive system. The red cross is in violation of their charity status if they are engaged in commercial activities.

I don’t see what the confusion is, or why it is not right for a business to protect itself from encroachment by a charity that is not supposed to be engaged in business.

[/quote]

I believe Wikapedia said the Red Cross was formed in 1917

I understand that it’s th A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N RC being sued,hence my saying that the suit might fly.When people think of a Red Cross,I’m sure every one thinks of J&J…

And no,the red cross are not in violation.That is why the suit ‘contends’.That remains to be proven.

A waste of money for an organization like the Red Cross to have to defend,but it will be interesting to keep an eye on it.

Because of course it’s also unheard of for major corporations to drag legal issues out and making them as costly as possible in order to wear the opponent out,regardless of the merit of their position.

That never,ever happens.

[quote]pittbulll wrote:
rainjack wrote:
J&J is suing the A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N Red Cross - not the IRC.

This is the heart of the suit, IMO:

Johnson & Johnson began using the red cross design as a trademark in 1887 �?? six years after the creation of the American Red Cross but before it received its congressional charter in 1900. The lawsuit contends that the charter did not empower the Red Cross to engage in commercial activities competing with a private business.

No evil corp. No abusive system. The red cross is in violation of their charity status if they are engaged in commercial activities.

I don’t see what the confusion is, or why it is not right for a business to protect itself from encroachment by a charity that is not supposed to be engaged in business.

I believe Wikapedia said the Red Cross was formed in 1917

[/quote]

You may not want to always believe what the all knowing oracle that is the Wiki always says.Because if that’s what it says it’s so wrong as to beggar belief.
http://www.redcross.org.hk/home.cfm?Mid=67&FMid=17&popup=0&Ver=T

J&J has the trademark for commercial purposes.

Are you seriously contending that they want to strip the ARC of any use of the red cross?

I read it a couple of times, and I never saw that.

The suit is based over the red cross branding products they sell brandishing the red cross. Good, bad, or ugly - if this is the case, they are in the wrong. From what I read no one is telling them to stop flying the red cross - just to stop branding their products with it.

Like Neph said - J&J has to defend their rights to it, because if they don’t, it opens the doors for others to do the same thing the ARC is doing.

Look at it this way.Does J&J,in your opinion,get a tremendous benefit by using a logo that is synonimous with the internationally most recognizable and respected charity organization in the world?
Because wether the suit is the US or not,J&J are a multinational corporation.

So no ,I certainly do not believe they want to strip either the ARC or any other chapter of the RC of any use of the red cross.
One could argue that what the IRC,ARC and any other RC related acronym should have done is copyright the logo back then and then we would not be at this juncture.Then J&J would either have a different logo or be paying royalties.

But of course when all this was happening,it was vastly different times,wasn’t it?The last thing that would have crossed anyone at the RC was that they would have to defend this type of action.They were in the business of saving life.

They were then ,and remain now,a non profit charity.
There is no way to convince me ,ethically,that the suit has any merit.The RC is not some fly by night trying to detract from J&J intellectual capital.
I think it can be said that if anything,the reverse may even be true.

And in my mind,dim as it may be,it is crucial that the RC,and even the ARC,were using the logo before J&J.
And I emphasize again,this is just in my mind and is not an attempt at any legal justification whatsoever.

I agree. Had the RC registered the cross, we would not be here. But they didn’t.

If they are engaged in commerce. Then they are in the wrong place. That is the point of the suit, IMO.

The RC can’t change playing fields and expect to get treated with kid gloves. If they stepped into the business world - they have to play by the same rules as a business.

And that includes intangible properties.

[quote]pittbulll wrote:

I believe Wikapedia said the Red Cross was formed in 1917

[/quote]
And as a complete aside,what the Red Cross did do in 1917 was win the Nobel Peace Prize…

Personally,Ihope they reach an agreement prior to litigation.I cannot see why there isn’t some kind of compromise possible here.