Snapping a photo with a great trademark story is hard for me to resist. Thankfully my family is growing more and more patient with my brand-related photographic diversions and even they were amused with what we found on the way home from a camping trip this weekend.

Until the tree shown in the above photo hit its taproot, this local pharmacy in Spooner, Wisconsin, was probably best known by its full name "Red Cross Pharmacy," but now it appears nature has truncated the name more simply to Red Cross.

Given how vigorously the American Red Cross protects its name and symbol, I was more than a bit surprised to find a Red Cross Pharmacy, much less a Red Cross, in the backwoods of Wisconsin.

Moreover, there appears to be another Red Cross Pharmacy in Forest City, Pennsylvania, and an entire (and growing) Red Cross Pharmacy chain operating in a number of towns across Missouri. According to the Missouri chain, since their roots predate the 1905 Trademark Act, their use has been "grandfathered" by Congress as a lawful name, and is "one of about twenty organizations world-wide that have been granted lawful use of the Red Cross name and emblem since we were established prior to January 5, 1905."

Does that mean their fortunately timed lineage permits them to "go public," and then proceed to go "coast to coast" with the name Red Cross Pharmacy, simply because it all began with a single location prior to 1905? That would be a curious form of grandfathering that could easily have the exception swallow the rule. It doesn’t appear that the American Red Cross reads the law the same way, since they seem to believe grandfathering only blesses what was in place at the time when the grandfathering occurred.

Back to the Red Cross Pharmacy located in Spooner, Wisconsin, apparently it began business in 1893 as Spooner Drug Company, with no indication of when it renamed and, quite frankly, traded-up to Red Cross Pharmacy, but presumably it did so prior to 1905.

Beyond the interesting question of the appropriate scope of grandfathering for the Red Cross Pharmacy name, here’s another less serious question for the day: If the American Red Cross can’t do anything about use of the name Red Cross Pharmacy in Spooner, Wisconsin, does it have the right to require the cutting down, the truncating of the trunk, or at least, the trimming of the tree, that currently truncates the Red Cross Pharmacy name to Red Cross?