Johnson & Johnson Sues Red Cross Over... er... Red Cross

The headline sez it: The New York Times reports today that health care giant Johnson & Johnson is taking the Red Cross to court over the use of the iconic red symbol that has flown benevolently over battlefields -- and stuff -- for over 100 years.

The dispute over rights to the symbol erupted to the surface yesterday in federal court in Manhattan, where J.& J. sued the American Red Cross.

Though, at first blush, the suit seems staggering, in fairness to Johnson & Johnson -- and under international playground rules everywhere -- the company actually had it first.

The lawsuit filed yesterday says that Johnson & Johnson has used the red cross symbol since 1887 on a wide range of products, including wound care products and first-aid kits, which include gloves, wipes, bandages and cream.

The company entered into an agreement with the American Red Cross in 1895. The agreement acknowledged Johnson & Johnson’s exclusive right to the red cross as a “trademark for chemical, surgical and pharmaceutical goods of every description,” according to the lawsuit.

So here’s where it gets kinda sticky. A few years ago, the Red Cross “began licensing the symbol to commercial partners selling products at retail establishments. According to the lawsuit, those products include humidifiers, medical examination gloves, nail clippers, combs and toothbrushes.” Which, under that initial agreement, pretty much seems verbotten.

Take, for example, the first aid kit (above left) sold at Target and emblazoned with all kinds of Red Cross-y goodness that The Times used to illustrate their piece. One could understand where Johnson & Johnson might get a bit snitty. It clouds the issue.

I can’t imagine where this is heading. But, for the moment, everyone is real mad.


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