Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Red Cross Emblem Restrictions

Some merchants either knowingly or unknowingly are taking an easy route to what they might consider success by adapting their company product image to a version or an exact copy of the International Red Cross Emblem which has specific restrictions on the use of that symbol for anything other than Mercy Missions or use by licensees such as the American Red Cross.

Read below..from the Red Cross.

Most people recognize the red cross on a background of white as an international symbol of humanity. What is not so well known is the fact that the use of this emblem is spelled out in international treaty and restricted by U.S. law.

It is hoped that this leaflet, by providing information and guidance about the restrictions, will prevent the inadvertent illegal use of the Red Cross name and emblem.

Observance of the spirit and word of the prohibitions guarantees the effectiveness of the symbol as a distinctive and universally recognized sign of neutrality that is so vital to individuals who are entitled to protected status in times of armed conflict.

The prohibitions are not designed to protect any vested interest of the Red Cross as an organization. Actually the American Red Cross and other national Red Cross societies are in effect only licensees. They have been granted the right to use the name and emblem for specified humanitarian purposes.

How did the Red Cross Originate as a Neutral Symbol of Mercy and What are Its Distinguishing Marks?There is more than a century of tradition behind the Red Cross emblem as a symbol of humanitarian protection. The idea developed from an international meeting in Switzerland in 1863 on improving care of the wounded on battlefields. One of the recommendations called for volunteer medical personnel of all countries to wear an easily recognized sign: a white armlet with a red cross, sometimes referred to as the ""Geneva cross."

An international treaty know as the Geneva Conventions was signed on August 22, 1864, by the representatives of 12 countries. It established the fundamental principle that "wounded or sick combatants, to whatever nation they may belong, shall be collected and cared for." It adopted the Red Cross emblem as the international symbol to identify personnel, material, and facilities used to care for the sick and wounded in times of armed conflict. By the terms of the treaty, persons and facilities bearing the symbol are protected from attack. Over the years the protection of the original Geneva Convention has been extended beyond the battlefield to include the shipwrecked, the prisoners of war, and the civilian populations affected by armed conflict.

Rigid definition of the form of the cross, the exact shade of red in the cross, and the shape of the white background was deliberately avoided to ensure universal respect for and to avoid abuse of the emblem intended to serve as the humanitarian Red Cross symbol.

In the treaty it was described simply as a "red cross on a white ground," created by reversing the colors of the Swiss flag. Thus, variations in dimension, shape, and shading would not change the status of the Red Cross emblem as a protective sign.

What Restrictions Do Current International Humanitarian Treaties Impose?The Geneva Conventions, as the original and subsequent related international humanitarian treaties are called, limit the use of the Red Cross emblem and the words "Red Cross" and "Geneva Cross" in both war and peacetime to identify the following: facilities for the care of the wounded and sick members of the military; armed forces medical personnel and equipment; military chaplains; the International Committee of the Reed Cross; the League of the Red Cross Societies (Now the International Federation of the Red Cross; and the various national Red Cross societies, including the American Red Cross.

Is National Law Involved in the Use of the Name and Emblem?Yes. To ensure universal respect for the protective nature of the Red Cross symbol, the Geneva Conventions obligate adhering governments to prohibit the unauthorized use of the name and emblem in both war and peacetime. Each government that is a party to the treaties enacts laws to protect the Red Cross name and emblem within its boundaries. The rules in this country were set by the U.S. Congress when it first granted the American Red Cross its charter on June 6, 1900, and they are now set forth in Sections 706 and 917 of the U.S. Criminal Code.

What is the significant Section of the U.S. Legal Restriction?It is contained in Section 706, Title 18, U.S. Criminal Code, part 18 which reads as follows: "Whoever, whether a corporation, association or person, other than the American National Red Cross and its duly authorized employees and agents and the sanitary and hospital authorities of the armed forces of the United States, uses the emblem of the Greek red cross on a white ground, or any sign or insignia made or colored in imitation thereof or the words ‘Red Cross’ or ‘Geneva Cross’ or any combination of these words- "Shall be fined..."

Are the Words "Red Cross" Copyrighted? Is the Red Cross on a White Background a trademark?No. The Red Cross name and emblem are not the property of the American Red Cross as a corporation. The American Red Cross is entitled to use the name and emblem only because it is the officially designated volunteer organization envisioned by the Geneva Conventions to assist the United States government in carrying out its treaty obligations. The treaties anticipate the existence of such an organization in each country bound by the treaties and authorize such organizations to make use of the name and emblem in carrying out the humanitarian activities for which they are established.

As the previous question and answer point out, U.S. prohibitions against the use of the emblem and name come from the federal criminal code. The prohibitions have nothing whatever to do with copyright or trademark law.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Federal Criminal Code Prohibitions Against the Use of the Red Cross Name and Emblem?Yes. Commercial concerns that used the name or emblem in connection with the manufacture and sale of their products or for other lawful purposes before 1905 are entitled to continue such usage. The United States government did not take away the rights that existed before the enactment on January 5, 1905, of the statutory provisions mentioned above.

Can the American Red Cross Grant Exceptions to the Federal Statutes?No. Although the American Red Cross is on e of the entitled users of the Red Cross name and emblem, as specified in the federal statute, it has no authority to interpret, waive, or relax the stipulations. In exceptional circumstances, however, Red Cross national headquarters may approve requests from Red Cross units to authorize the use by specially deputized agents of the Red Cross name and emblem in joint community projects with other organizations. For details, see the appendix to Use of the Name, Emblem, and Flag of the American Red Cross (ARC 544).

Is it permissible To Include Mention of the American Red Cross in Advertising?Yes, this can be done with the prior approval of the American Red Cross if certain stipulations are observed. A printed advertisement devoted only in part to the American Red Cross must be distinctively set apart from the rest of the advertisement. If the entire advertisement is devoted to the Red Cross, the name of the sponsor, the trademark, and the identifying line that is always used as part of the sponsor’s name may be designated in a byline at the bottom of the advertisement.
No advertisement through any medium shall carry the implication that the product or service of the sponsor is either endorsed or used by the American Red Cross. For additional guidelines on advertising involving the Red Cross, refer to ARC 544.

In Summary:
What Are the Rules for Use of the Red Cross Name and Emblem?
In accordance with International and federal law, the use of the name and emblem of the Red Cross in the United States is limited except for certain pre-1905 users - to the medical departments and to the American Red Cross. As noted above, the American Red Cross has no authority to waive or relax these limitations.

Virtually all of those firms that have used the name or emblem without knowing of its legal restrictions are willing to desist voluntarily, thus supporting and preserving the use of the symbol of protection of mercy.

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