• October 20, 2014

Red Cross Attacks Company's Trademark Charges

The American Red Cross on Thursday asked a federal court to throw out a lawsuit charging that the charity infringed a trademark held by the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson.

The court action is the Red Cross’s first legal volley against Johnson & Johnson following the company’s move last month to sue the charity. The company alleges the Red Cross violated a long-held trademark by selling products such as humidifiers, toothbrushes, and first-aid kits under its own brand.

Johnson & Johnson says it has the exclusive right to use the red cross symbol on commercial products. In its lawsuit, it asked the court to order the Red Cross to cease the sale of its licensed first-aid products, turn over the proceeds of past sales of such products, and pay damages.

The Red Cross, which has publicly disputed Johnson & Johnson’s claims, filed a motion Thursday at the U.S. District Court in New York, that seeks to dismiss the lawsuit. The nonprofit group says in its claim that it has a right through its Congressional charter to sell products to support its charitable mission.

The charity has also filed a counter-claim against Johnson & Johnson, alleging that the company has been marketing products bearing the red cross logo that extend beyond its boundaries.

The Red Cross states that in addition to selling goods such as first-aid kits and cotton balls — products that are allowed under a longstanding agreement — Johnson & Johnson has been selling products such as light sticks and magnets that bear the red cross symbol. The charity says the company’s use of the symbol on such products violates its trademark.

“While it’s unfortunate that the issue has reached this point, we have an obligation — on behalf of our chapters, blood-donation operations, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers — to protect the proper use of the Red Cross emblem,” Mark Everson , chief executive of the Red Cross, said in a statement.

Johnson & Johnson released a statement today reiterating its reasons for the suit. The company said it would turn over any damages it receives from the suit to charity.

“Our primary goal is simply to restore the long-standing legal boundaries that the ARC and Johnson & Johnson have observed around the Red Cross trademark for more than 100 years,” the company said.

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