Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The End Justifies the Means

The American Red Cross is an organization that does much good work, no doubt about it. I've been very supportive of it over the years by donating my time, money and blood (5 gallon pin). But it appears that all the good they accomplish has given them a world class case of entitlement.

In 1887 Johnson & Johnson began using the red cross logo on their medical products. In 1895, Clara Barton, founder and head of the American Red Cross reached an agreement with Johnson & Johnson that allowed the American Red Cross to use the Red Cross emblem, but only for items that did not compete with Johnson & Johnson's commercial products.

In 2004 the American Red Cross began licensing products under its name for sale.

Apparently, Johnson & Johnson is somewhat upset that the 112 year agreement has been breached. What I find interesting is that the American Red Cross disputes none of the facts, but instead defends its conduct purely upon the idea that the American Red Cross is engaged in noble work and therefore is entitled to as it pleases. I'm amazed that Johnson & Johnson would take on the American Red Cross. J & J has the facts and the law, from what I've read, but the ARC has a tremendous reputation. Of course the press is already lining up on behalf of the embattled charity (and getting its facts wrong, as usual). On the other hand, the Internet is a wonderful place, and it's much more possible for a company to get the facts out these days than in years past.

Quite frankly, I don't understand why the Red Cross didn't use the alternative symbol for the commercial products. That would make such products usable internationally and avoid any possibility of trademark infringement.

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