Girl Scouts of the USA sue Boy Scouts of America for trademark infringement

Print this page 08-11-2018
IP10159 " The Girl Scouts of the USA has sued the Boy Scouts of America for trademark infringement. The dispute, filed Nov. 6 in federal court in New York, centers on the use of the word “scout” without a gender modifier. The suit argues that despite the long co-existence of the two organizations using the same term for its members and group, the Boy Scouts don’t have the right to use that word by itself when marketing itself to girls. The suit alleges that confusion among names will “marginalize the Girl Scouts Movement by causing the public to believe that GSUSA’s extraordinarily successful services are not true or official ‘Scouting’ programs, but niche services with limited utility and appeal.” The Boy Scouts group said in May 2018 that it would change its name for its program for 11 to 17 year olds from Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA when it announced that it would accept girls immediately into its younger Cub Scouts program.


The lawsuit refers to that change, and says that these changes dramatically alter the long-standing relationship of the two groups. The suit mentions a video posted in July that features girls and uses the slogan “Scout Me In.” It also cites and includes several examples of local Boy Scouts chapters using the term “Girl Scouts” by itself and in connection with Boy Scouts.


While it’s impossible to register a trademark in a generic word used in isolation, like scout, trademark law provides protection in narrowly defined areas to provide distinction among competing products—or scouting organizations.


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