November 13, 2007 by Silja Reschke
For more than a decade one of the world’s most recognized emblems – the
red cross on a white background – has been shared amicably between the
commercial giant health care company, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), and the
non-profit help organization, American Red Cross (ARC). J&J has used the
symbol on its commercial products and the ARC as a symbol of its relief
efforts on foreign battlefields and in disasters like floods and tornadoes.
Suddenly this life-saving symbol has become the object of a big lawsuit in
the US. J&J has sued ARC over its use of the emblem.
In many newspapers, e.g. the New York Times, the president of ARC, Mark
W. Everson, has been quoted saying that the company’s actions were
“obscene” and “simply so that J&J can make more money.” But is this
lawsuit really obscene?
What is at stake here is a trademark issue. Who has the legal right to use