In one of the lamer PR moves in recent memory, Johnson & Johnson has decided to sue the American Red Cross for unauthorized use of the famous red cross symbol. J&J has asked 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.” According to PeterNRX:
J&J claims the company has been using the red cross since 1887, before the chartering of the Red Cross. J&J trademarked the design consisting of two intersecting red lines of equal length at least “as early as 1906,” according to the suit. J&J also claims that the Red Cross only has the right to use the trademark “in connection with nonprofit relief services.”
Even though the Red Cross has made first-aid and emergency kits available for more than a century, it only recently started selling them in big-box stores like Target and Wal-Mart. The decision to make them available to more people came after the terrorist attacks and natural disasters of the past few years.
The Red Cross made about $2 million from those sales, which it said it reinvested in its emergency relief programs. J&J CEO Bill Weldon’s salary alone was almost that much last year…
Trademark infringement lawsuits should be reserved for legitimate corporate competitors. If 3M started to put a red cross on its bandages, that would be something worthy of the legal team. Penalizing the Red Cross for wanting to cast a wider net to help more people in times of crisis is petty and reprehensible.