Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What is the value of the red cross symbol? And what will it cost?

What’s the real story behind the Johnson & Johnson lawsuit of trademark infringement filed against the American Red Cross?

As with anything that seems so cut and dry, I chose to dig a little deeper. In the courts of public opinion, it seems like the Red Cross is winning the battle. J&J is coming across as a bully. The entire situation is being painted as a greedy corporation going after an innocent non-profit organization that has nothing but good intentions at heart.

The bottom line still goes back to trademark ownership. The symbol of the red cross was a trademark of J&J’s since before the official charter of the American Red Cross. Despite that, the two companies have shared the symbol for over 100 years.

In 2004, the ARC started licensing the red cross to companies producing disaster relief products, some of which were in direct competition to products J&J makes.

I can only imagine that discussions have been under way since then regarding the outcome of this little debacle. In fact, J&J has continued to make charitable contributions to the ARC, so while the relationship was certainly strained, it had not completely fallen apart.

It seems, based on the facts I can glean, that the legal results will see J&J victorious. But what will the cost be to the public images of both companies? Will J&J be seen as a greedy mega-corporation, vilified for its desire to put the bottom line before humanitarian causes? Or will the ARC gain the reputation of being welshers – a company that will not hesitate to throw away a century-old arrangement to make a little money for its cause?

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