Questions over use of Pharmacy Logo in UK Government indy booklet


  By a Newsnet reporter
The UK Government is facing questions over its use of the ‘Green Cross’ pharmacy logo in a booklet aimed at persuading Scots to vote No in the independence referendum.
Today, June 23, every home in Scotland will receive a copy of the booklet that the UK Government claims shows the benefits for to Scotland if the nation remains in the Union.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said the UK Government had to “give everyone in Scotland every opportunity to make an informed decision in September”.

He said the new booklet was a direct response to demands from the public for simple, factual information in a clear format.

However Newsnet Scotland has learned that an image used in the booklet may have contravened the regulations covering the use of registered trademarks.

Beneath a section headed, ‘By staying in the United Kingdom, Scotland’s public services are more affordable.’, the booklet has used an image depicting a pharmacy with someone being handed a prescription.  Seen clearly on the prescription bag is the official Pharmacy Green Cross together with the words ‘Your Prescription’.

This logo is the property of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).  The RPS is the professional body for pharmacists and pharmacy in England, Scotland and Wales. 

It owns the rights to the registered service mark – the Pharmacy Green Cross and permission is required for use outwith normal pharmacy areas.

NHS Brand guidelines state:

“The society reserves the right to restrict the use of its service mark, and permission for any other use must be gained in advance from the Public Relations Unit of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.”

With regard to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s own website, terms and conditions about the use of images from its media centre library, state:

“(b) you shall not amend, adapt, use or position the Photographs so as to suggest that you or any of the persons appearing in the Photographs endorse any commercial product or service or any political party or belief without our prior approval in writing”

Although the condition relates to images from the website, several are of a similar design to that used by the UK Government.

Newsnet Scotland contacted the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to ask whether use of the Green Cross was allowed for political campaigning, by political parties or governments.  They sent an official document which indicated the logo is normally only be used by pharmacists and that permission had to be obtained for any other use.

The document stated: “The society reserves the right to restrict the use of its service mark and permission for any other use must be gained in advance from the Fitness to Practise and Legal Affairs Directorate of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.”

Newsnet Scotland contacted the Legal Affairs Directorate and asked if the UK Government had sought, and had been granted, permission to use the logo in its referendum campaign literature.  However after a brief wait, our researcher was told that the person who deals with this issue was not available and would not be available until the next day.

Newsnet Scotland has also contacted the UK Cabinet Office to ask if they have obtained permission to use the logo – at the time of publication we have received no reply.

The UK Government has spent £720,000 of public cash printing and distributing the booklet.