The Fight for the Red Cross: In Which We End Up Siding With the Multinational Conglomerate Over the Healthy Do-Gooders

When we first came across this news in the Times, we immediately nominated it for our Chutzpa of the Year award: Johnson & Johnson has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to wrest the red-cross logo from the American Red Cross. What’s next, we wondered, DreamWorks suing Islam for exclusive use of a crescent moon? As we read on, however, we found ourselves involuntarily siding with the health-product giant over the disaster-relief nonprofit. Turns out J&J trademarked the logo before the American Red Cross was even chartered. And that the two had peacefully co-existed, like Apple Computer and the Beatles’ Apple Corps, under a deal that allowed the nonprofit use of the logo so long as they not step on each other’s toes. This meant that the health org wouldn’t go into retail (and that the conglomerate wouldn’t go solving health crises, we suppose).

Lately, however, the American Red Cross began licensing its logo to third parties churning out first-aid kits (which J&J also makes) as well as more frivolous items like nail clippers. While we’re not sure what kind of consumer, given an array of options, would be into fixing his hair with an American Red Cross–branded comb, it’s also irrelevant. Seems the story’s less plain old corporate greed than the public sector’s sudden and recent obsession with self-branding. NYC condoms are cute. But Red Cross grooming kits at Target are a little, well, unhealthy.

Johnson & Johnson Sues Red Cross Over Symbol [NYT]