Court Tosses Out Most Of Johnson & Johnson's Trademark Lawsuit Against The Red Cross

from the don't-mess-with-charities dept

Last summer, we wrote about the absolutely ridiculous situation where Johnson & Johnson decided (against all common sense) to sue the American Red Cross (ARC) for trademark infringement over using (get this…) the red cross to sell products to raise more money for ARC. Beyond just being a really bad PR move to sue one of the world’s most respected charities, the legal specifics were quite murky as well. Basically, ARC and J&J had worked out an agreement over a century ago to effectively share the use of the trademark (it’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the basic agreement). On top of that, there are laws preventing anyone from falsely using the Red Cross symbol — and J&J claimed that the companies that ARC licensed the symbol to were doing just that. Luckily, the court has thrown out most of the case, claiming that the law seemed pretty clear in allowing ARC to use the symbol in commercial products, even licensing it out. In fact, the court noted that back in the 80’s J&J engaged in a similar promotion where it donated some money from certain products sold to ARC. The judge also noted how ridiculous it is to claim that a charity was doing this for nefarious purposes: “The fact that the ultimate purpose of these licensing activities is a ‘charitable purpose’ — i.e. to raise funds that A.R.C., a not-for-profit organization, can utilize for its charitable endeavors — only further emphasizes their legitimacy.” There are still a few parts of the case left unresolved, but the big parts have now all been dismissed.

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Companies: johnson & johnson, red cross

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Comments on “Court Tosses Out Most Of Johnson & Johnson's Trademark Lawsuit Against The Red Cross”

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Nate (user link) says:


It is unbelievable that J&J would go after the Red Cross in the first place. I mean, it is a freaking not for profit charity orgaization, not some other company trying to profit. It goes to show how greedy these corporations really are. And further more, it isn’t like the Red Cross is somehow cutting into J&J’s profits at all. In fact, I bet the Red Cross buy supplies in some form or another from J&J. Or maybe they don’t and that is the reason for the malicious lawsuit… who freaking knows. All I know is I will now hold J&J product in different light and there is a strong chance I will avoid them if possible.

Mike (profile) says:

Not so fast...

As is often stated, trademarks are for consumer protection to avoid consumer confusion. If the ARC is now selling (or licensing other to sell) first-aid and related products, which they had previously agreed to be under the domain of J&J, they are now entering into J&J territory. While, the ARC does a lot of good charitable work, that should not give them a free pass to enter into J&J’s business… The fact the J&J has previously run a sales promotion giving a portion of profits to ARC is also irrelevant to the argument.

If a charity were named “Dominos”, I think they could successfully argue the right to a “Dominos” trademark. However, it they wanted to start raising money by delivering pizza, I would think things would get pretty sticky…

The Rog says:

Unbelievable 2.0

You know it wasn’t actually J&J that initiated this suit, it was some ambulance chasing attorney. Now that lawyers have proliferated like rats, they have to sit around and dream up people to sue and screw. Basically, there’s really not enough work to go around for these lawyers, so they are forced to make things up in order to be employed. There’s a special room in hell for these worthless parasites!

ehrichweiss says:


This is a bit off-topic but the ARC might be a not-for-profit but they aren’t what most might call a good charity either.

If you don’t already know, the ARC doesn’t have local chapters or the like that are run by the main organization. Instead each chapter is a franchise that has to pay a hefty sum in yearly dues in order to be able to use the name of the ARC for fund raising events.

A friend of mine ran one of the local chapters in a poor area of the state and they’d collect, say, $135,000 in a year and then have to pay out $125,000 in dues which would then leave all of $10,000 to pay everyone, and still find some way to provide aid for the people in the area. Know what those dues go to? Paying the salaries of the big wigs in the national organization. IIRC they have/had the highest salaries for any non-profit.

In my opinion they’re nothing more than a big scam like the Ronald McDonald foundation and other places like it.

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