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How to get Entangled in a No-win Situation: J&J sues the Red Cross

jj-red-cross.jpgI can just imagine the beating Johnson and Johnson will take over this one. After long negotiations got nowhere, J&J is suing the venerable Red Cross over the commercial use of the red cross symbol (to which J&J has held the trademark for well over 100 years). Traditionally, the Red Cross organization did not use the trademark in any commercial activities, but J&J contends that this has recently changed.

Of course, it appears, on the surface, like unconscionable bullying. But I actually sympathize with J&J’s business stance here. I’m no trademark lawyer, but it appears to me that the Red Cross folks took a couple of steps down a slippery slope, and the J&J people recognize that once this mark starts getting used commercially, there will be no end of violations. Here is the official corporate justification for the suit.

As with the recent case of Novartis and the Indian government, some cases brought as a matter of principle (and I’m sure the profit motive wasn’t absent, of course – this is business), to try to settle long-term case law, will bring plenty of short-term odium.

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