The medical supply company claims that the organizations own "separate and distinct rights" to the logo. However, JNJ protests the not-for-profit's right to license the logo to other for-profit companies for use on items as diverse as baby mitts, nail clippers and humidifiers.
The Red Cross traces the history of the symbol back to Italy in 1859, where volunteers first organized to treat battlefield wounded. In the U.S., Clara Barton of Civil War fame brought the movement to these shores. With the signing of the Geneva Convention in 1864, the Red Cross emblem was officially recognized as the symbol of those treating the sick and wounded during conflicts.
From my vantage point, I'd say a pox on both their houses. The Red Cross organization's failure to safeguard the brand from trivialization dishonors their long tradition, and Johnson & Johnson's lawsuit will only serve to sully both their names.
In a related story, rumors persist that Johnson & Johnson is considering a similar suit against the Catholic Church, as well as major Christian denominations, who persist in using the company's trademark cross in their religious ceremonies. (This is a joke. I hope, anyway.)