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

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.]