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Red Cross faces logo suit

London, Aug. 10: Pharmaceuticals giant Johnson & Johnson is suing the American Red Cross, demanding that the charity stop using the symbol of a red cross on a white background on products it sells to the public.

The company said it has had exclusive rights to use the trademark on certain commercial products — including bandages — for more than 100 years. It argues the Red Cross is only supposed to use the symbol in connection with non-profit relief services.

The lawsuit marked the breakdown of months of behind-the-scenes negotiations and prompted an angry response from the Red Cross president Mark Everson: “For a multibillion-dollar drug company to claim that the Red Cross violated a criminal statute ... simply so that J&J can make more money, is obscene.”

Johnson & Johnson began using the red cross design as a trademark in 1887 — six years after the creation of the American Red Cross but before it received its congressional charter in 1900. The lawsuit contends that the charter did not empower the Red Cross to engage in commercial activities competing with a private business. In a statement the company said: “After more than a century of strong cooperation in the use of the Red Cross trademark. ... we were very disappointed to find that the American Red Cross started a campaign to licence the trademark to several businesses for commercial purposes”

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