Well, this has public relations disaster written all over it:
Medical firm Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is suing the American Red Cross, alleging the charity has misused the famous red cross symbol for commercial purposes.
J&J said a deal with the charity’s founder in 1895 gave it the “exclusive use” of the symbol as a trademark for drug, chemical and surgical products.
It said American Red Cross had violated this agreement by licensing the symbol to other firms to sell certain goods.
The charity described the lawsuit as “obscene”.
It said many of the products at issue were health and safety kits and that profits from their sale had been used to support disaster-relief campaigns.
My understanding of trademark law is pretty thin but I’m not sure that Johnson & Johnson has much choice here. The Wikipedia entry on trademark law seems to confirm that:
Unlike copyright law which provides for criminal penalties as well as civil damages, trademark law in the United States is entirely enforced through private lawsuits. The responsibility is entirely on the mark owner to file suit in either state or federal civil court in order to restrict an infringing use. Failure to “police” a mark by stopping infringing uses can result in the loss of protection. [emphasis mine - John]
Also in contrast to copyright or patent law, trademark protection has no expiration. As long as the mark is continually used, it can be protected from infringement indefinitely.