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What to do when you're wrong

The Red Cross got sued by J&J yesterday.

It turns out that in the 1800s, Johnson & Johnson had used the Red Cross symbol for more than a decade before the US non-profit started using it. It also turns out that they generously gave the organization the right, for free, to use the symbol for its work, forever, as long as they didn't use it for reasons not directly related to their mission.

Mission? The Red Cross recently licensed their logo to a brand of surgical gloves, for example. And first aid kits that a licensee sells at Target.

In the press release, Mark Everson, the Red Cross' president, is quoted as saying, "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."

I think that's a typo. My guess is that Mr. Everson meant to say, "Oops! J&J is a good corporate citizen, a significant donor to the Red Cross and the original and rightful owner of the trademark. We'll unwind our deals as soon as we can and go back to focusing on what we do best."

That's what I would do, anyway.

[UPDATE: I got quite a bit of mail about this post, as I expected. I think I need to clarify something: I'm not asserting that J&J is legally or morally right, nor do I have expertise or knowledge in the history of the issue or the role of the International Red Cross. My point is this: The mission of the Red Cross in the US isn't advanced by this fight. Thumbing a nose at a long time supporter and contributor doesn't help them. Having a lawsuit doesn't help them. Distracting senior management from the urgent issues at hand is silly. It tarnishes the group in the eyes of other corporate supporters, because companies don't like to do business (or charity) with groups that are intransigent. So, by "wrong", I mean, "off target, out of focus, in the wrong place." Like that.]

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» Red Cross Blunder from No Not Again!
As Im sure everyone knows, the Johnson Johnson (hereafter referred to as JJ) conglomerate has sued the Red Cross for using its trademark, the red plus sign. The reason is that the two organizations have an agreement that dat... [Read More]

» Branding Stupidity: JJ Suing The Red Cross from Mary's Blog
Via Slashdot: Johnson and Johnson is suing Red Cross over use of emblem. (It seems JJ began using the trademark in 1887, 6 years after the Red Cross was formed, but 13 years before the charitable organization was chartered by Congress. Lately th... [Read More]

» Even when youre right, yourewrong from The Learning Curve
Seth points out an interesting trademark infringement lawsuit brought by the pharmaceutical giant Johnson Johnson against the American Red Cross. Seth thinks that the American Red Cross is in the wrong on this one, and he asks, What to do when y... [Read More]

» Sorry, Seth from Beneath the Peak
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I'm with Seth Godin on thisĀ  What to do when you are wrong The Red Cross got sued by JJ yesterday. It turns out that in the 1800s, Johnson Johnson had used the Red Cross symbol for more than a decade before the US non-profit started using i... [Read More]

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Last week Cam and I were talking about possible topics for blog posts. Working for Fleishman-Hillard, I've begun doing more PR work. Cam mentioned the Johnson Johnson issue with the Red Cross. In a nut shell, JJ is suing the [Read More]

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