Ouch! Johnson and Johnson Suing the Red Cross – WSJ article

This seems like the kind of action that is necessary in some instances and one where no one wins. J&J is going to get hit hard for going after the Red Cross.

In my experience, when you work for a big company, the best bet is take care of this sort of thing behind closed doors, especially when the director of the targeted non-profit isn’t afraid to use strong language. Look at this quote below:

“For a multibillion-dollar drug company to claim that the Red Cross violated a criminal statute that was created to protect the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross — simply so that J&J can make more money — is obscene,” Mr. Everson said.

Red Cross Is Sued by J&J
Over Signature Emblem

August 9, 2007; Page A2

Johnson & Johnson filed suit against the American Red Cross and some of its licensing partners claiming the charity misused the cross design that is its signature emblem, which also appears on J&J’s first-aid kits and bandages.

The health-care products company alleges that the Red Cross licensed the eponymous design to for-profit companies that sell medical products — such as first-aid kits and hand sanitizers — and infringed J&J’s trademark. The suit was filed yesterday in Southern District Court in New York.


In the suit, J&J asked the court to have all licensed products with the red-cross emblem destroyed and to permanently enjoin all sales of products bearing the emblem on first-aid, safety-preparedness and related products. The New Brunswick, N.J., company also seeks punitive damages and payment of its legal fees. J&J said it tried for several months to resolve the issue with the Red Cross, but that those efforts failed.

The Red Cross’s new chief executive, former Internal Revenue Service commissioner Mark Everson, fired back, calling the action “bizarre” and “obscene.” The Red Cross says all money it receives from the sale of the consumer products in question “is reinvested in its humanitarian programs and services.”

The Washington, D.C., charity began working with business partners to create first-aid, preparedness and related products bearing the Red Cross emblem in 2004. “For a multibillion-dollar drug company to claim that the Red Cross violated a criminal statute that was created to protect the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross — simply so that J&J can make more money — is obscene,” Mr. Everson said. The Red Cross is chartered by Congress to provide humanitarian aid but is otherwise an independent agency.

The legal move carries risks for J&J’s carefully cultivated corporate image. Amid a boom in philanthropy, many big companies are racing to join with big charities to burnish their reputations and appeal to consumers. J&J has long enjoyed a reputation as a good corporate citizen, whose approach is embodied in a credo that pledges the company’s primary responsibility “is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.”

The Red Cross has suffered its own headaches, including millions of dollars in fines for inadequate attention to ensuring safety in its blood-products unit and complaints from donors about how some of their money is used. The organization completed a sweeping overhaul aimed at resolving longstanding tension between its operating executives and its oversight board, culminating with Mr. Everson’s recruitment as chief executive.

J&J said it has been using the symbol of a Greek red cross since 1887, predating the chartering of the Red Cross. J&J trademarked the design — two intersecting red lines of equal length — at least as early as 1906, the suit says.

According to J&J, the Red Cross only has the right to use the trademark in connection with nonprofit relief services. J&J says in 1905, Congress prohibited “the emblem of the Greek red cross on a white ground” by organizations other than the Red Cross; J&J’s suit says since it used the cross before that date, it was exempt.

Write to Sally Beatty at sally.beatty@wsj.com and Avery Johnson at avery.johnson@WSJ.com

the image above is from the WSJ.


One thought on “Ouch! Johnson and Johnson Suing the Red Cross – WSJ article

  1. Ouch!, indeed. I had just gotten done reading a feel-good front page article in my local paper about our Red Cross volunteers working at the site of the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Then I turned on CNN and saw the story that Johnson and Johnson was suing the Red Cross. I immediately fired off a rather directly-worded comment to Johnson and Johnson on their website.

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