by Mike Masnick
Tue, May 20th 2008 10:16am
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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