This article deals with the use of the Red Cross logo or symbol and emblems of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Law in India relating to it.
The law regarding the Red Cross Symbols and Emblem in India
Which laws in India protect or restrict the use of the Red Cross Symbol or Logo?
- The Geneva Conventions Act, 1960
- The Trademark Act
India passed The Geneva Conventions Act, 1960 which contained specific provisions to protect the Red Cross Emblem.
CHAPTER IV of the Act dealt with:
ABUSE OF THE RED CROSS AND OTHER EMBLEMS
12. Prohibition of use of Red Cross and other emblems.- No person shall, without the approval of the Central Government, use for any purpose whatsoever–
(a) the emblem of a red cross with vertical and horizontal arms of the same length on, and completely surrounded by, a white ground, or the designation” Red Cross” or” Geneva Cross”;
(b) the emblem of a red crescent moon on, and completely surrounded by, a white ground, or the designation” Red Crescent”;
(c) the following emblem in red on, and completely surrounded by, a white ground, that is to say, a lion passing from right to left of, and with its face turned towards, the observer, holding erect in its raised right forepaw a scimitar, with, appearing above the lion’ s back, the upper half of the sun shooting forth rays, or the designation” Red Lion and Sun”;
(d) the emblem of a white or silver cross with vertical and horizontal arms of the same length on, and completely surrounded by, a red ground, being the heraldic emblem of the Swiss Confederation; or
(e) any design or wording so nearly resembling any of the emblems or designations specified in the preceding clauses of this section as to be capable of being mistaken for, or, as the case may be, understood as referring to, one of those emblems.
Is the Red Cross Logo copyrighted? Does it get protection under the Indian Copyright Law?
The Red Cross Logo is too common a design to have any copyright value i.e. it is merely a Plus + sign which is Red in Colour. Hence it would be hit by section 13. which defines what can be copyrighted. It states that:
13. Works in which Copyright subsists:
(1) Subject to the provisions of this section and the other provisions of this Act, Copyright shall subsist throughout India in the following classes of works, that is to say,-
(a) original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works;
(b) cinematograph films; and
(c) sound recordings;
The Red Cross Logo is not an artistic or literary work and is too generic a character to be copyrighted. Hence it cannot be protected under Indian Copyright Law.
Is the use of the Red Cross logo prohibited in India?
India is a signatory to the Geneva Convention also known as Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Geneva, 12 August 1949. The Geneva Convention states that:
Art. 44. With the exception of the cases mentioned in the following paragraphs of the present Article, the emblem of the red cross on a white ground and the words ” Red Cross” or ” Geneva Cross ” may not be employed, either in time of peace or in time of war, except to indicate or to protect the medical units and establishments, the personnel and material protected by the present Convention and other Conventions dealing with similar matters. The same shall apply to the emblems mentioned in Article 38, second paragraph, in respect of the countries which use them. The National Red Cross Societies and other societies designated in Article 26 shall have the right to use the distinctive emblem conferring the protection of the Convention only within the framework of the present paragraph.
Furthermore, National Red Cross (Red Crescent, Red Lion and Sun) Societies may, in time of peace, in accordance with their national legislation, make use of the name and emblem of the Red Cross for their other activities which are in conformity with the principles laid down by the International Red Cross Conferences. When those activities are carried out in time of war, the conditions for the use of the emblem shall be such that it cannot be considered as conferring the protection of the Convention; the emblem shall be comparatively small in size and may not be placed on armlets or on the roofs of buildings.
The international Red Cross organizations and their duly authorized personnel shall be permitted to make use, at all times, of the emblem of the red cross on a white ground.
As an exceptional measure, in conformity with national legislation and with the express permission of one of the National Red Cross (Red Crescent, Red Lion and Sun) Societies, the emblem of the Convention may be employed in time of peace to identify vehicles used as ambulances and to mark the position of aid stations exclusively assigned to the purpose of giving free treatment to the wounded or sick.
Art. 53. The use by individuals, societies, firms or companies either public or private, other than those entitled thereto under the present Convention, of the emblem or the designation ” Red Cross ” or ” Geneva Cross ” or any sign or designation constituting an imitation thereof, whatever the object of such use, and irrespective of the date of its adoption, shall be prohibited at all times.
By reason of the tribute paid to Switzerland by the adoption of the reversed Federal colours, and of the confusion which may arise between the arms of Switzerland and the distinctive emblem of the Convention, the use by private individuals, societies or firms, of the arms of the Swiss Confederation, or of marks constituting an imitation thereof, whether as trademarks or commercial marks, or as parts of such marks, or for a purpose contrary to commercial honesty, or in circumstances capable of wounding Swiss national sentiment, shall be prohibited at all times.
Nevertheless, such High Contracting Parties as were not party to the Geneva Convention of 27 July 1929, may grant to prior users of the emblems, designations, signs or marks designated in the first paragraph, a time limit not to exceed three years from the coming into force of the present Convention to discontinue such use provided that the said use shall not be such as would appear, in time of war, to confer the protection of the Convention.
The prohibition laid down in the first paragraph of the present Article shall also apply, without effect on any rights acquired through prior use, to the emblems and marks mentioned in the second paragraph of Article 38.
Art. 54. The High Contracting Parties shall, if their legislation is not already adequate, take measures necessary for the prevention and repression, at all times, of the abuses referred to under Article 53.
Hence, it is India’s obligation to enforce the Articles of the Convention and give effect to them in practice as per the principle of Pacta sunt servanda. India has also passed a law which gives effect to these provisions i.e. The Geneva Conventions Act, 1960
Is the Red Cross symbol a trademark of the Indian Red Cross? Does it have protection under Indian Trademark laws?
As per The draft Manual of Trade Marks Practice and Procedure in India:
Practice with regard to Red Cross Marks consisting of words “Red Cross” or “Geneva Cross” or any cross device in red or in any closely
resembling colour is not accepted for registration –
However, applications made in black and white, which contain the device of a cross, or a crescent moon or lion and sun, will not attract objection.
Green crosses on a white background are generic for pharmacy and medical goods and services. Use of such emblems as trades mark is not to be permitted.
White crosses on green backgrounds are generic for first aid goods and services, and are based on European Union legislation establishing a white cross on a green background as the First Aid sign.
Objection must be raised for registration of such devices as trademarks In respect of mark generally consisting of cross device, applicant is required to comply with the condition not to use the cross device in red or in any similar colour, or in the manner prohibited under the Geneva Convention Act, 1960.
In the proposed Trade Mark Manual for comments it clearly states that:
Marks consisting of words “Red Cross” or “Geneva Cross” or any
cross device in red or in any closely resembling colour is not
accepted for registration – See Geneva Convention Act, 1960(Act
6 of 1960).
However, applications made in black and white, which contain the
device of a cross, or a crescent moon or lion and sun, will not
Green crosses on a white background are generic for pharmacy
and medical goods and services. Use of such emblems as trades
mark is not to be permitted.
White crosses on green backgrounds are generic for first aid
goods and services, and are based on European Union legislation
establishing a white cross on a green background as the first aid
sign. Objection must be raised for registration of such devices as
In respect of mark generally consisting of cross device, applicant is
required to comply with the condition not to use the cross device in
red or in any similar colour. Where the cross device is confusingly
similar to the prohibited cross device, a condition is imposed that :-
“the mark will not be used with cross device appearing thereon in
red or in which or silver on a red ground or with the cross device
and ground in or of any similar respective colour or colours”.
Why is the Red Cross symbol not permitted to be used?
What is the punishment for unauthorized use of the Red Cross Symbols?
13. Penalty.- If any person contravenes any of the provisions of section 12, he shall be punishable with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, and be liable to forfeit any goods upon or in connection with
which the emblem, designation, design or wording was used by that person.
More coming soon….