Red Cross goes after video game health packs

Saw this on Boing Boing:

The Canadian Red Cross, having eliminated all pain and suffering in Canada, has set its sights on video games that use red crosses to denote in-game health-packs. They’ve sent lawyer-letters to game-makers telling them that marking health-packs with red crosses is illegal and will damage the Canadian Red Cross.

Somebody tell the Red Cross that they should also get a cease and decist letter out to Jesus, Switzerland, and whoever invented mathematics.

The Red Cross on a white background is a trademark held by the Red Cross under International Law.

They have themselves a case, and a good one.

Individual, elected politicians using videogames as a rabble-rousing whipping boy, I understand, even if I don’t approve. This just makes no sense.

I mean, come on, it’s free marketing! Video gamers everywhere know red cross symbol=health! That’s synergy!

Now I feel bad for donating blood two weeks ago.

They’re just tired of all the teenagers camping in the bushes outside their offices and smashing open their crates.

I shoot the guy with the red cross on his helmet first. Not sure how positive that is :P

They have a case, but it’s a stupid one.

Yeah, just cause you have a case, doesn’t mean you have to pursue it.

Unclear. Trademark is “you don’t pursue, and you lose it”, but does that apply to trademarks enshrined in international treaties?

Do they? I thought trademarks were only protected if their (mis)use could cause confusion or harm in the customer or user. Is anyone really going to think that they’re buying an official Red Cross game if the megahealth has a red cross on it? And the red cross = health thing has been everywhere for a long time. I just walked past a first aid kit --a real one-- with it on there. Not an official Red Cross product.

It would be funny if they get their own trademark ruled unenforceable.

Actually, in the United States, it is a federal crime to use the Red Cross symbol.

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 33 > § 706

§ 706. Red Cross

Whoever wears or displays the sign of the Red Cross or any insignia colored in imitation thereof for the fraudulent purpose of inducing the belief that he is a member of or an agent for the American National Red Cross; or

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 under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

This section shall not make unlawful the use of any such emblem, sign, insignia or words which was lawful on the date of enactment of this title.

That statute probably has a lot of caselaw behind it demonstrating all the loopholes.

I mean, that little red cross thing is on EVERYTHING. Why aren’t all first aid kit manufacturers being fined over it?

It’s possible no one in the US cares, so it’s just not enforced, I guess.

Two possibilities. One, they haven’t been noticed (although I just did take a look, and the first aid kit in my office most definitely does not use it).

Two, they are using it with permission.

More information:

In 1998, the blood donation services formerly performed by the Canadian Red Cross were spun off into a separate organisation, the Canadian Blood Services (unless you live in Québec, which has its own system.) So if you lived here, you wouldn’t have to feel bad. ;)

If they sued, they could not proceed without explaining why every other game ever released with a health pack was not also infringing.

A mark becomes indefensible if not defended, which is why proprietors often let copyright slide but always land hard on people who infringe trademarks. Since video games have used the red cross for, ooo, 20 years without a whiff from the Red Cross, I’d say their trademark case is a bad one. They would have to pursue it as a federal crime.

In the interview the man says that they simply never noticed, since Red Cross lawyers don’t play Doom.

Is there a fair use doctrine for trademark?

See the thing is, it is a Federal Crime, and it is pretty straightforward black letter law.

So, while past infringement can help you with a trademark case, if your defense to criminal charges is “we’ve been breaking that law for 20 years now”, you aren’t exactly helping your cause.

It doesn’t matter if “they simply never noticed.” It won’t fly as a trademark case because the world is awash with the mark in all sorts of unauthorized contexts. I know that it’s OK to print a trademark as representative of the owner, e.g. a newspaper doesn’t have to ask before printing the logo of a company it’s doing a story about. Fair Use is a US copyright thing (it’s not in Berne with specificity) but I’m not sure it extends to cover trademarks. Parodying a trademark, as is sometimes seen with “BestBuySucks” and other similar situations, is usually attacked on the basis that it will “confuse” the consumer into thinking its a legimitate approved use of the mark. Though that’s often a ridiculous claim (as if to suggest McDonalds or whoever would approve and condone the golden arches being under golden showers) it seems to work quite a lot.

Someone now needs to make a GIF of the little guy running up to the red cross mark and, you know…