• Court Tosses Most of Suit Over Red Cross Logo
  • June 22, 2008
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • A New York federal judge has thrown out the majority of a case brought by Johnson & Johnson against the American Red Cross for licensing its red and white symbol to other companies.

    The ruling is a major defeat for Johnson & Johnson in a trademark fight started last August over the use of the red cross logo, which the two groups have both used for more than a hundred years.

    Initially, Johnson & Johnson insisted that the Red Cross cease using its logo on health care products sold to the public.

    In November, the court dismissed much of the lawsuit, but Johnson & Johnson continued to contend that by licensing its insignia to third parties, the Red Cross violated a federal law making it a crime for anyone to use the logo “for the fraudulent purpose of inducing the belief that he is a member of or an agent for the American National Red Cross.”

    In its latest ruling, the court also dismissed that claim, finding that when Congress chartered the Red Cross and gave it the almost exclusive authority to use the red cross symbol, it also gave the group latitude to use the logo to promote itself and raise money for its charitable works.  Since then, the Red Cross has licensed the logo many times, to companies such as first aid supply kit makers, watchmakers, and Tiffany & Co.

    The court wrote that Johnson & Johnson’s reading of the law “would criminalize not only the licensing agreements that, as noted above, ARC has been entering into for more than a century, but also a host of other familiar and traditional ARC activities.”

    Only a small part of the suit remains: a claim that the Red Cross intentionally interfered with Johnson & Johnson’s business relationship with two health care supply companies, Water-Jel Technologies Inc. and First Aid Only Inc.

    Johnson & Johnson began using the logo in 1887, six years after the American Red Cross was created, but prior to the 1900 formation of the group’s federal charter. Johnson & Johnson’s use of the trademark was grandfathered under a 1905 law.