Johnson & Johnson Sues Red Cross Over Symbol

You probably heard that earlier this month, health care company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) sued the American Red Cross over use of the red cross symbol. Johnson & Johnson claimed in its suit that the Red Cross was unlawfully using the emblem to promote products related to health and preparedness rather than just disaster relief. They specifically demanded that the organization:

  • Stop the Red Cross and its licensing partners from using the Red Cross emblem permanently on first aid, preparedness and related products sold to the public;
  • Surrender to J&J for destruction the Red Cross’ inventory of accused products;
  • Hand over to J&J all Red Cross proceeds from the sale of these products with interest; and
  • Pay punitive damages to J&J along with attorney fees related to its legal action against the Red Cross. Visit for more legal information.

Communications staff nationally and locally have responded to J&J’s claims with clear messages. The American Red Cross has been using the red cross symbol since its inception in 1881, whereas J&J has used the symbol since it began in 1887. Congress granted the American Red Cross exclusive use of the symbol in 1905, but still allowed third parties who used the symbol previously to continue using it. J&J is considered one of these “grandfathered” users.

Beyond that, the Red Cross made just $2 million from the sale of these products in fiscal year 2006, all of which was invested back into the life-saving work of the organization. $2 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the $53.3 billion J&J made in the same time period. Considering that recent research shows that fewer than 7 percent of Americans have taken the necessary steps to get prepared for an emergency, the Red Cross must continue to offer emergency preparedness products.

For more information, view this video of President & CEO Mark Everson on CNN, and visit

Sandy Tesch, California

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