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FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION v. A. P. W. PAPER CO.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


decided: May 6, 1946.

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
v.
A. P. W. PAPER CO., INC.

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Stone, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Rutledge, Burton; Jackson took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Douglas

[ 328 U.S. Page 195]

 MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent manufactures and sells toilet tissues and paper towels in interstate commerce. On each package or roll of one brand are a Greek red cross and the words "Red Cross." Respondent registered the words "Red Cross" and the Red Cross symbol as a trade mark; and it features them in its advertisements and on its letterheads.

By § 4 of the American Red Cross Act of January 5, 1905, 33 Stat. 600, 36 U. S. C. § 4, it was made unlawful "for any person or corporation, other than the Red Cross

[ 328 U.S. Page 196]

     of America, not now lawfully entitled to use the sign of the Red Cross, hereafter to use such sign or any insignia colored in imitation thereof for the purposes of trade or as an advertisement to induce the sale of any article whatsoever." That section was amended by the Act of June 23, 1910, 36 Stat. 604, 36 U. S. C. § 4. Sec. 4 of that Act made unlawful the use of the Greek red cross on a white ground or the words "Red Cross" for the purpose of trade or as an advertisement "to induce the sale of any article" or "for any business or charitable purpose" by any person other than the American National Red Cross*fn1 or its duly authorized employees and agents or the sanitary and hospital authorities of the army and navy. It contained, however, a proviso which reads as follows: "That no person, corporation, or association that actually used or whose assignor actually used the said emblem, sign, insignia, or words for any lawful purpose prior to January fifth, nineteen hundred and five, shall be deemed forbidden by this Act to continue the use thereof for the same purpose and for the same class of goods."

Petitioner's use of the trade name and emblem antedate January 5, 1905.*fn2 But in 1942 the Federal Trade Commission

[ 328 U.S. Page 197]

     charged petitioner with a violation of § 5 (a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 719, as amended 52 Stat. 111, 15 U. S. C. § 45, which makes unlawful "unfair methods of competition in commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce."

A hearing was had, findings were made and a cease and desist order was issued. The Commission found that "the use by respondent of the words 'Red Cross' and of the mark of the Greek red cross to designate its products has the tendency and capacity to mislead and deceive a substantial portion of the purchasing public, in that such name and mark represent or imply that respondent's products are sponsored, endorsed, or approved by the Red Cross; that the Red Cross is financially interested in the sale of the products; that the products are used by the Red Cross; that the products are manufactured in accordance with sanitary standards set up by the Red Cross; or that there is some other connection between the products and the Red Cross. Not only are these, in the opinion of the Commission, reasonable inferences to be drawn from the use of the name and mark, but the record affirmatively shows that the name and mark are in fact so understood and interpreted by many members of the public." The Commission also found that statements on respondent's products that they are made by respondent and that the name and mark are registered "do not serve to correct the erroneous and misleading impression created through the use of the trade name and mark." The Commission entered an order which, among other things, forbade respondent from using the words "Red Cross" to

[ 328 U.S. Page 198]

     describe its products and from displaying the Greek red cross on them.*fn3 38 F. T. C. 1.

On a petition for review, the Circuit Court of Appeals, by a divided vote, reversed the order of the Commission. 149 F.2d 424. It held that the order went beyond permissible limits in forbidding any use of the words and the mark. It remanded the case to the Commission for the formulation of a new order which, though not forbidding the use of the words and the symbol, might require statements which would avoid any inference that the goods were sponsored or approved or in any way connected with the American National Red Cross. The case is here on petition for a writ of certiorari which we granted because of the importance of the problem in the administration of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

There is no suggestion that the pre-1905 use of the words and the symbol was an unlawful one within the meaning of either the 1905 or the 1910 Act. Nor has the Commission found that respondent has engaged in any fraudulent activity or made any untruthful statements in connection with its use of the words and the symbol. Therefore this is not a case where the words and symbols

[ 328 U.S. Page 199]

     were either adopted or used pursuant to a fraudulent design, aimed at creating the impression that these products were sponsored by or otherwise carried the imprimatur of the Red Cross. Hence, here, as in Jacob Siegel Co. v. Federal Trade Commission, 327 U.S. 608, we have no problem involving the power of the Commission to uproot a fraudulent scheme in its entirety. But it is argued that however lawful the earlier use may have been, it cannot survive a finding by the Commission that the use constitutes an unfair or deceptive act or practice in commerce. It is pointed out that the 1938 amendment to the Federal Trade Commission Act gave the Commission power to protect consumers, as well as competitors, against unfair or deceptive practices.*fn4 It is said that there are no exceptions to that broad power and none should be implied from the Red Cross Act of 1910. The latter Act, it is said, confers no general rights but only a limited immunity and should not be construed as exempting pre-1905 users of the name and emblem from regulatory legislation of general application which Congress may from time to time enact for the protection of the public. It is also argued that by the Geneva Convention of 1929, which was ratified

[ 328 U.S. Page 200]

     by the United States*fn5 in 1932, the United States agreed to prohibit the use by private persons of the name and the symbol and that the Red Cross Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act should not be construed in favor of conduct which this nation is under international obligation to terminate.

We agree, however, with the Circuit Court of Appeals. It is clear that the 1910 Act granted, or at least recognized, the right of pre-1905 users to continue the use of the words and the symbol.*fn6 The House Report stated that the Act as amended "will permit the use of the symbol by . . . such persons, corporations, and associations as actually used the emblem prior to January 5, 1905, for the purposes

[ 328 U.S. Page 201]

     for which they were so entitled to use it and for the same class of goods. The section, as so amended, grants to the American National Red Cross the fullest protection it is possible to afford it by congressional enactment and at the same time amply protects the concerns possessing vested property rights in the emblem." H. Rep. No. 1256, 61st Cong., 2d Sess., pp. 2-3. It is apparent from the terms of the 1905 Act and the 1910 Act*fn7 that Congress was concerned not only with protecting the Red Cross against pretenders but also with protecting the public against the false impression that goods purchased were the products of the Red Cross or were sponsored by it. Congress, however, did not go the full distance. It preserved the right of earlier, good faith users to continue the use of the words and the symbol. It may have concluded that the mark which had been acquired was a valuable business asset

[ 328 U.S. Page 202]

     which should not be destroyed. Or it may have thought that the extent and manner of the use by the established concerns were not likely to injure the public.*fn8 But whatever the purpose, the fact remains that the good faith use of the mark by the pre-1905 users was intended to be preserved unimpaired.

We cannot lightly infer that this specific right was intended to be swept away under the 1938 amendment to the Federal Trade Commission Act. Repeals by implication are not favored. Yet if the order of the Commission stands, the right granted or recognized by the 1910 Act becomes a nullity. For the use of the words and the symbol by good faith pre-1905 users becomes per se unlawful. As the 1910 Act, like the Federal Trade Commission Act, was in part directed towards protection of the public against deceptive practices, we think the two Acts must be read in pari materia. The problem is to reconcile the two, if possible, and to give effect to each. We think that may be done by recognizing that while the good faith use of the words and symbols by pre-1905 users is permissible, the Commission may require the addition of language which removes any misleading inference that the

[ 328 U.S. Page 203]

     products are in fact sponsored, approved, or in any manner associated with the American National Red Cross.

We need comment only briefly on the Geneva Convention of 1929, which was ratified by the United States in 1932.*fn9 The undertaking "to prevent the use by private persons" of the words or symbol is a matter for the executive and legislative departments. The problem has been before the Congress in recent years.*fn10 No action has yet been taken. But we can find in that inaction no basis for concluding that the rights of good faith, pre-1905 users granted or recognized by the 1910 Act are today in any way impaired. Indeed, the existence of that right was recognized as giving rise to the need for additional legislation.*fn11 That assumption can hardly be reconciled with the conclusion that complete relief is already accorded under the Federal Trade Commission Act.

We do not undertake to prescribe the order which the Commission should enter. The fashioning of the remedy

[ 328 U.S. Page 204]

     is a matter entrusted to the Commission, which has wide latitude for judgment. Jacob Siegel Co. v. Trade Commission, supra. We only hold that under the facts of this case the Commission may not absolutely forbid the use of the words and the symbol by respondent.

Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Disposition

149 F.2d 424, affirmed.


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