The Red Cross logo was designed by Henri Dunant in 1863.

red cross logo

red cross flag

In order to avoid “semantic noise,” the International Red Cross uses the Red Crescent name and trademark in some Arab World countries that have a predominantly Muslim population.

Origin of the emblems

The Red Cross emblem is an inversion of the Swiss flag (the flag is a white cross on a red background). This recognises the historic connection between Switzerland and the original Geneva Convention of 1864.

But while the 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

In 2007, the pharmaceuticals firm Johnson & Johnson sued the Red Cross over their 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.”

Red Cross president Mark Everson said, “For a multi-billion dollar drug company to claim that the Red Cross violated a criminal statue… simply so that J&J can make more money, is obscene.”

Red Cross history
The Red Cross at work during the Franco Prussian war



Hi Lauren, there’s a third emblem that’s also used by the Red Cross:

“An additional protective emblem – the red crystal – was established in 2005. It has equal status and meaning to the red cross and red crescent emblems.”

What is the meaning of this symbol? I mean it has four sides in equal length & breadth. Is it having any particular meaning?


I heard about this when it happened. It’s utterly silly. Normally I’d think yeah, protect it, but they’ve lived side-by-side for a very long time. Johnson & Johnson has made themselves sound like petty bullies on this.



I like this post. I remember when I was the president of the Red Crescent Society (similar like Red Cross) when I was 12 years old.

Regarding the crescent as symbol of Islam (during Ottoman Empire), maybe you would like to check out my Islamic Arts Club blog about it.

Moon and star – A symbol of Islam?

I hope you don’t mind I’m posting this link.

Cheers David

Kelly, that’s what I thought when I saw the headline.

Rafie, I don’t mind at all. I visited your ISAC blog and you might want to fix the ‘about us’ footer link. There’s a missing slash that breaks it.

I wonder what the red color used in red cross logo really means. Can anybody tell me that? Would be great.

I think the idea is to make whoever is wearing it conspicuous and visible from distance; based on the convention that red cross members are not to be attacked by either parties during crisis.

So nothing about the protection of the emblem under the Geneva Convention, and the rules regarding its use? This is perhaps the most important fact, and one people fail to recognise or respect.

So is the red cross protected or not? I see where J&J filed a suit, but it seems the red cross is often used to indicate a hospital… is this correct? I’ve seen the red cross on top of buildings so a hospital can be easily spotted (just like a ‘P’ in a circle indicates parking. Also, I thought a red cross was a standard ‘label’ for a First Aid kit/box, so it could be quickly identified, and fetched for, well, first and fast aid. Any info would be appreciated, thanks, John.

The symbol of the Red Cross, which represents mercy and help to persons in need, is usually thought to have originated in recent times, but it was actually first used by St. Camillus when he founded the order of ministers of the sick. Source: Saints for the Sick.

Thanks for the logo information. I’m an 8th grader at Dock Mennonite Academy (Penn View Christian School) and we’re doing World War 2 projects. I’m making a paper quilt and one of my squares is for The Red Cross. This helped. :)

I have actually had people tell me when looking at a version of the Swiss flag “Oh that must be for emergencies because of the red cross…” when clearly it was a big white Swiss cross on a solid red background.

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