Red Cross allowed to keep its . . . red cross. J&J loses suit.
A federal judge last night ruled against Johnson & Johnson in its suit to stop the American Red Cross from using the Red Cross emblem on first aid and other health and safety products sold to the public. The judge’s ruling represents a complete vindication of the right of the Red Cross charity to use its emblem or authorize others’ use of its emblem in the sale of products related to its mission. The money the Red Cross receives from the sale of these products is reinvested in its humanitarian programs and services.
“The American Red Cross is pleased that the Court has upheld our right to use our trusted emblem to provide consumers with products that help protect their families’ health and safety,” said Mary S. Elcano, Acting President and CEO of the American Red Cross. “Whenever the Red Cross emblem can be used to advance our mission – whether flying above blood donation sites, worn by relief workers, or printed on emergency first aid kits – we will continue to display it proudly,” said Elcano.
“We have said from the beginning that Johnson & Johnson’s lawsuit is meritless, and we are gratified by Judge Rakoff’s ruling in our favor. We hope J&J will work with us to bring this dispute to a prompt end so we can focus on what’s important: delivering lifesaving Red Cross services to the American people,” added Elcano.
Judge Rakoff squarely held that the Red Cross’s activities “do not violate the criminal prohibition contained in 18 U.S.C. 706. They also do not violate the Red Cross’s congressional charter or the Geneva Convention,” contrary to J&J’s claims. According to Judge Rakoff, “For over a century … [the Red Cross] has entered into a number of arrangements to use the Red Cross emblem and words in an ostensibly commercial context – including, of particular relevance here, entering into license agreements that utilize the logo.” Indeed, Judge Rakoff found that “the doubtfulness of [J&J’s] interpretation is well illustrated by the ironic fact that in 1986 J&J itself entered into a cause-marketing promotional agreement with [the Red Cross].”
Today’s ruling marks the second major victory for the Red Cross since August 2007 when J&J first brought suit against the organization and four of its licensing partners for “unlawful conduct” related to how the Red Cross uses its emblem. The first victory in the case came in November 2007 when Judge Rakoff dismissed J&J’s claim that Red Cross had promised not to engage in the sale of mission-related products.
The Red Cross has been using the Red Cross emblem since 1881 and has been selling first aid kits and other safety and health products since at least 1903. By offering these Red Cross products at retail locations, the organization is able to reach more families.
Several claims and counterclaims remain for trial in the case, but none call into question the lawfulness of the Red Cross’s use of the emblem in providing consumers with first aid and other products. The Red Cross’s use of its emblem, and its authorization of others to use it in furtherance of its mission, has been entirely vindicated.