The American Red Cross could have at least served coffee and donuts this week to the legal team of Johnson & Johnson: a court all but vanquished the claims of the company that the Red Cross had violated its trademarked use of the iconic red cross on white background. Judge Jed Rakoff of the United States district court said that Congress gave the charity the right to use the Greek cross and that it could therefore sell the right to use it to competitors.
The company argued that the Red Cross was only allowed to use the Greek red cross under an agreement in 1895 for purely charity purposes. But in 2004, the charity began licensing the symbol to other companies for use on their commercial products.
Yet, Rakoff cited the congressional charter for the Red Cross and added: “The fact that the ultimate purpose of these licensing activities is a ‘charitable purpose’ — i.e. to raise funds that A.R.C., a not-for-profit organization, can utilize for its charitable endeavors — only further emphasizes their legitimacy.”
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