The WHO emblem
WHO's emblem was chosen by the first World Health Assembly in 1948. The emblem consists of the United Nations symbol surmounted by a staff with a snake coiling round it. The staff with the snake has long been a symbol of medicine and the medical profession.
It originates from the story of Asclepius who was revered by the ancient Greeks as a god of healing and whose cult involved the use of snakes. (Asclepius, incidentally, was so successful at saving lives that, the legend goes, Hades the god of the underworld complained about him to the supreme god Zeus who, fearing that the healer might make humans immortal, killed Asclepius with a thunderbolt.)
Protection of the WHO emblem
WHO's emblem is part of the Organization’s intellectual property and may not be used by others without express written permission.
In addition to being an identifier of the Organization, the WHO emblem represents the Organization’s official seal. As such, it implies endorsement by WHO of the material it is used in conjunction with.
The use of the WHO emblem is governed by a resolution of the first World Health Assembly which states that "appropriate measures should be taken to prevent the use, without authorization by the Director-General, and in particular for commercial purposes by means of trade-marks or commercial labels, of the emblem, the official seal and the name of the World Health Organization, and of abbreviations of that name through the use of its initial letters".
In most Member States of WHO, legislation has subsequently been introduced to protect the emblem, seal and name of the Organization. The WHO emblem, name and abbreviation are also protected from being registered as a trade mark under Article 6 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
Use of the WHO emblem in a publication
Since the use of the WHO emblem implies endorsement by WHO, it may be used on publications (print, electronic or web) only with express permission, only if WHO has been involved in preparing the text or in funding the publication (or the work on which it is based), and only so long as the text is consistent with WHO's policies and priorities. The WHO emblem should not be used in association with advertising or with the names of proprietary products.
The use of the WHO emblem as an illustration (for instance, in a magazine article about WHO) is often not appropriate since some readers may interpret it as indicating endorsement. Journalists and other writers are encouraged to use other illustrations (such as photographs) that draw attention to WHO's work. Similarly, the use of the WHO emblem on non-WHO websites is normally not allowed since its use could be misconstrued as WHO endorsement of the non-WHO site.
WHO programme logos
In addition to the emblem which represents WHO as an organization, some WHO programmes and projects have their own logos which they use to identify their activities. The use of these logos is limited to the programme or project concerned. In cases where a programme involves collaboration between WHO and other bodies, requests to use the programme logo should be addressed to the director of the programme. Use of a WHO programme or project logo does not indicate approval or endorsement by WHO. Please use this form to submit your request and add as much detail as possible.