J&J sues the Red Cross

Smart business? Maybe. But it's also a possible PR disaster. Johnson & Johnson has sued the American Red Cross for trademark infringement--even though the not-for-profit and the healthcare giant have shared the red, blocky plus sign for decades.

It's a story that's easy to cast in the big-bully-picks-on-humanitarian mold. But do the facts jibe? J&J says it takes issue only with the Red Cross's licensing program, which allows commercial concerns to use the red cross on their own products for a fee. Some of those products compete directly with Johnson & Johnson goods, the company says. Products sold by Red Cross licensees include first aid kits (which J&J sells), hand sanitizer (ditto) and medical examination gloves (ditto). The Red Cross throws these products under the "disaster preparedness" umbrella, saying it's part of the group's mission to help consumers be ready for emergencies, and knowing a product is approved by the Red Cross may spur them to buy. For its part, J&J says the Red Cross should stick to its non-commercial preparedness efforts and leave the sales-and-marketing to others. Let the courts decide--and quickly, because the court of public opinion is already working.

- read this article from The New York Times

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