Design by Henri Dunant, 1863.
The emblem of a red cross with arms of equal length on a white background is the visible sign of protection under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. As such, it is the emblem of the armed forces’ medical services.
In order to avoid ‘semantic noise’, the International Red Cross uses the Red Crescent name and trademark in some Arab World countries—with a predominantly Muslim population.
Origin of the emblems
The Red Cross emblem is an inversion of the Swiss flag, which shows a white cross on a red background. This recognises the historic connection between Switzerland and the original Geneva Convention of 1864.
But while the Red Cross emblem has no intentional religious meaning, the symbol reminded soldiers from the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) of the crusaders of the Middle Ages and so in 1876 they began using a Red Crescent instead.
Johnson & Johnson sue Red Cross over logo
“Johnson & Johnson began using the red cross design as a trademark in 1887—some years after the creation of the American Red Cross but before it received its congressional charter in 1900. The lawsuit contends that the charter did not empower the Red Cross to engage in commercial activities competing with a private business.”