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Johnson & Johnson sues Red Cross

US-based healthcare company, Johnson and Johnson, has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in New York against the American Red Cross and four of its licensing partners to halt the latter's use of a red cross symbol on its products

US-based healthcare company, Johnson and Johnson (J&J), has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in New York against the American Red Cross and four of its licensing partners.

The complaint dated 8 August demands that the charity halt its use of the red cross symbol on all products it sells to the public and give its inventory of such products to J&J for destruction.

J&J also asks that it receive all proceeds from the sale of these products, with interest, and that the Red Cross pay punitive damages and attorney fees related to the legal action.

The company claims that the suit follows months of trying to resolve the issue through discussions and mediation.

In an official statement, J&J stated: "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 license the trademark to several businesses for commercial purposes."

The products under dispute include baby mitts, nail clippers, combs, toothbrushes and humidifiers.

According to J&J, it has had exclusive rights to use the trademark on certain commercial products for over 100 years. It began using the red cross design as a trademark in 1887, or six years after the creation of the American Red Cross but before it received its congressional charter in 1900. The lawsuit contends the charter did not empower the Red Cross to engage in commercial activities competing with a private business.

"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," declared Red Cross president, Mark Everson, in an interview with the Associated Press. He went on to accuse J&J of "bullying" the organisation.

The Red Cross claims that most of the products in question were part of health and safety kits and that profits from the sales of these products total less than USD 10m. These earnings, it states, went to boost Red Cross disaster-response efforts.

"The Red Cross products that J&J wants to take away from consumersÖare those that help Americans get prepared for life's emergencies," says Everson, noting the Red Cross faces a budget deficit and relies on donations.

"I hope that the courts and Congress will not allow Johnson & Johnson to bully the American Red Cross. Our lawyers have looked at this. We wouldn't be doing something we think is improper, and our position will be sustained in the courts," added Everson.

Red Cross partners involved in the complaint are Learning Curve International, Magla Products, Water-Jel Technologies and First Aid Only.

9th August 2007

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