Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Who Owns the Red Cross? Don't Buy Johnson & Johnson!

There's a legal battle brewing between Johnson & Johnson and the American Red Cross over use of the red cross logo on first aid, preparedness and related products sold to the public. Seems that Johnson & Johnson registered the emblem in 1887, while the American Red Cross was not chartered until 1900.

Generally, the rule in Trademark Law is pretty clear - the first one to register wins. I haven't studied this particular lawsuit carefully, but, if I were a betting man, that's the way I'd lay my money down.

When I first heard about this lawsuit, my reaction was that the American Red Cross is wasting its resources in trying to fight it. Legally, that might still be correct, but, in further reflection, it occurs to me that Johnson & Johnson is trying to profit from the good work done by the Red Cross.

Why is that red cross emblem valuable? It's certainly not due to anything done by the corporate giant Johnson & Johnson. It's due to the work of thousands of nameless volunteers who formed the International Red Cross Movement back in the 1800s. It's due to Clara Barton and her post-Civil War advocacy. It's due to the millions of people who have sought relief from suffering because of war, famine and natural disasters, and found that relief in the form of a Red Cross.

Legally, Johnson and Johnson may have the upper hand. Morally, they are stealing from volunteers and Clara Barton.

If you share my disgust at this corporate power play, make a mental note to avoid these brands. There are other brands of each of these products, and you won't be supporting corporate theft. And then go here and tell them why. (Update - don't bother! Their form is designed to frustrate consumers with useless questions and demands for personal information.)



Blogger les said...

From Wikipedia and the NYT, so take it for what it's worth; the following is consistent with what I've heard elsewhere, tho. One note--RC established in 1881, federally chartered (including the right to use the symbol in connection with its relief efforts) in 1900. In 1895, the RC and J&J entered an agreement that basically gives J&J the commercial rights, RC the relief/charitable rights. The J&J suit is not directly over the RC using the symbol, but their licensing other commercial companies to market first aid kits and similar products using the symbol, in competition with J&J. Licensing proceeds support RC programs. Like much of life, muddled and hard to pick the bad guy.

10/03/2007 8:47 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

How can J&J be accused of corporate theft? What did they steal? On the face of it, and without knowing the details, looks like the real thief is the Red Cross.

10/03/2007 9:31 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Darn it, Les, I hate it when you confuse my outrage with facts!

I still think it's stupid of J&J, but I'll acknowledge it's more muddled, because of your stupid facts!

10/03/2007 10:45 AM  
Blogger les said...

I'll definitely go with your "stupid of J&J" comment; hard to win when you're attacking the Red Cross, even post-Libby Dole. But it can't be easy for a red-blooded 'Murkan corporate giant to watch some pansy ass non-profit handing it's logo over to competitors; what's a good capitalist to do?

10/03/2007 10:56 AM  
Blogger ::Andrew:: said...

I'm sorry Dan, but I refuse to give up my Bengay.

10/03/2007 10:58 AM  
Blogger "The D" said...

dan you know you were voted best political blogger by the Pitch right? It's no shit, check out my post.

Congrats! First round is on you!

10/03/2007 9:06 PM  

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