Girl Scouts Sue Boy Scouts for Trademark Infringement

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From American University Intellectual Property Brief:

Many adults in America today can say that they were participants in the Girl Scouts Program or the Boy Scouts Program. Often, they have fond memories of the gender segregated programs. The arrival of 2018 brought groundbreaking change as the Boy Scouts of America began to accept girls into its ranks, causing the Girl Scouts to break out the claws.

Hell hath no fury like a Girl Scout scorned. Last fall, the Boy Scouts of America, also known as the BSA, made the groundbreaking announcement that it would start accepting girls starting in 2018. In May of this year, the BSA made yet another announcement: it was officially changing its name to Scouts BSA to reflect the decision to include young women in its programs. While the organization will remain the same, the name of the program for older youth will be changed.

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) initially responded in a fiery blog post in October 2017, shortly after the BSA’s announcement that it would include girls. Specifically, the organization stated, “We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a free space for girls to learn and thrive.” The organization goes on to defend the advantages of the single-gender environment and all of the unmatched outcomes it provides to young girls. The organization summarized its post: “The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today – and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success.” In the era of the #MeToo movement, there may be some merit to this argument. Yet, at the same time, the push for equality between the sexes implies that perhaps it is time to end the segregated programs.

On November 6th, the GSUSA finally responded to the BSA’s announcement of its name change by filing a trademark infringement lawsuit against the BSA. These girls are done playing nice. In the complaint filed in a Manhattan federal court, the GSUSA claims trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution. The GSUSA claimed that the BSA doesn’t have the right to use “scouts” or “scouting” and further notes that the Girl Scouts brand and activities will be marginalized as the result of BSA’s rebranding effort. The GSUSA claims that the name change has caused confusion among the public, leading people to assume that the Girl Scouts no longer exist or have merged with the BSA. The complaint also declares that only GSUSA has the right to use the GIRL SCOUTS and SCOUTS trademarks with leadership development services for girls. The complaint includes photographic evidence of fundraising and other materials that point to concrete evidence of actual confusion.

Link to the rest at American University Intellectual Property Brief

7 thoughts on “Girl Scouts Sue Boy Scouts for Trademark Infringement”

  1. For anyone who cares, a little perspective from someone who has both a Boy and a Girl Scout.

    They are very different experiences, which is not surprising considering the differences in the genders.

    Boy Scouts tends to be regimented and organized by a set of authority figures – the Den (small group) and Pack (group of Dens) leaders. There are detailed books that lay out the educational and experiential topics that are part of every year, and you get those from the Scout store. Boys are encouraged to behave, learn and, most importantly, behave according to certain standards. Dens do come together regularly as Packs, but in general dens of various age groups are less likely to interact with each other.

    At ground level, Girl scouts is more of an ad-hoc thing. There are still badges and cookies and all that, but in general a group of parents and girls get together and form a troop, and they have, within limits, a huge amount of freedom to design their own shared experience. Even at an early age the girls in the troop are encouraged to participate in laying out the experience itself. Girl Scout troops don’t regularly congregate, but as they get older there are organized activities where older girls take a significant role in working with younger girls from other troops.

    So When the girls say leadership, they really do mean it – in my experience Girl Scouts really do have more opportunities to work cooperatively and to see leadership from all of the possible angles, much more so than Boy Scouts do. My experience with Girl Scouts has been very positive.

    • What you’re describing is the Cub Scouts, for boys up to around 10 years old. Once you hit sixth grade they transition to Boy Scouts, which is entirely scout run. The adults are just along to make sure things don’t go off the rails too much.

      I don’t have a girl scout, but my youngest is in the Boy Scouts right now.

  2. “We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a free space for girls to learn and thrive.”

    The battle(s) of the sexes keeps getting younger and younger.

    Here I would have thought they’d start letting boys in rather than demanding girls not join the boys.

    (I’m always amazed the more ‘level’ someone tries to make the playing field the more someone else objects to it. 😉 )

  3. the writer is in error; as a commisionr for boy scouts with three eagle scouts in the family, girls have been accepted into boy scouts
    venturing programs world wide for years.

    Dont know about girls scouts; but the conflict started when boy scouts opened all aspects of scouting to girls, including their leadership and tech/science/ math stem programs. Jeff is right, boy scouts is entirely scout run within the dozens of areas of study and endeavor.

    It is not true in my experience that girls scouts are not held to a set of values.

    Still, an Eagle Scout accomplishment opens doors for many re jobs, later in life, as it is a steep learning curve and set of consistent endeavors on service of others, under the umbrella of leadership that matters.

    When boy scouts admitted gay scouts and then gay scout leaders,
    the mormon and catholic and some of the chrisitan sectors of boy scouts
    withdrew for religious doctrinal reasons… and suspect BSA had most
    of all and eye to consolidating present and future enrollment.

  4. The main problem is not membership. Explorers have been a thing forever.

    It is the BSA trying to take over the generic term — thus attempting to say that all scouts belong to them, and making it appear that GSA doesn’t exist or has merged with them. It also opens the GSA up to being sued, if they do not sue first.

    Normally I am all in favor of mocking GSA’s corporate weirdness, but this time they are right. It is either fight, or lose the GSA name.

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