November 09, 2018

Girl Scouts file trademark infringement lawsuit against Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts

On November 6, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in Manhattan Federal Court, stating that the organization’s intention to rebrand by dropping the word "boy" from its name is confusing.

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America is a youth organization for girls in the United States and American girls living abroad, while the Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest Scouting organizations and youth organizations in the United States, with more than 2.4 million youth participants and nearly one million adult volunteers.

The complaint stated that BSA’s name-change is an attempt to monopolize the terms “scouts” and “scouting” and “marginalize” GSUSA activities through rebranding, which will “erode its core brand identity” and create nationwide confusion.

The complaint added that BSA does not have the right, federally or under New York law, to use the terms “scouts” or “scouting” “by themselves in connection with services offered to girls, or to rebrand itself as ‘the Scouts’.” According to GSUSA, such action “falsely communicate[s] to the American public that it is now the organization exclusively associated with leadership development services offered under that mark to girls.”

The lawsuit was filed after the Boy Scouts stated that it would change its name to Scouts BSA in February 2019 and make girls eligible to earn its highest rank.

The complaint also said, “Only GSUSA has the right to use the Girl Scouts and Scouts trademarks with leadership development services for girls,” and the Boy Scouts infringements are “new and uniquely damaging to GSUSA.” In response, the Boy Scouts stated that its rebranding was part of a single-name approach it adopted when it decided in October 2017 to let girls enroll in the Cub Scouts, for children 7 to 10 years old.

However, GSUSA has sought for an order blocking the BSA from using terms “scout”, “scouts”, or “Scouts BSA” unless an “inherently distinctive or distinguishing term appear[s] immediately before it”, using any GSUSA materials to promote its services, or using any “false designation … or any false description” that may mislead the public to believe BSA is now associated, endorsed, or sponsored with GSUSA.

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