The decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow girls to join its younger ranks was expected to provoke controversy. The Boy Scouts wanted the increased opportunities to be considered a significant win in the fight for gender equality. Now all children, regardless of gender, could learn the wilderness skills, teamwork, and community taught by the large and respected Boy Scouts organization. To reflect the new policy, the Boy Scouts of America officially changed its name to Scouts BSA in early 2019. Unfortunately the launch of Scouts BSA put the organization in the middle of a trademark fight with the Girl Scouts of America.
The Girl Scouts of America and Scouts BSA are two separate organizations with no affiliation. The Girl Scouts trademarked the term “Girl Scout” and had a long history of protecting the reputation associated with the term. Each troop or affiliate must abide by certain rules and procedures keeping in line with the organization’s overall mission.
So how does one refer to the young women who choose to join Cub Scouts or the older ranks, now known as Scouts BSA? They are part of a youth scout organization and they are girls, so you might call them a “girl Scout.” The Girl Scouts call that trademark infringement. In a lawsuit filed by the Girl Scouts against Scouts BSA, the Girl Scouts claim Scouts BSA’s usage of the term “scout” would diminish the value of the Girl Scout’s trademark. It’s easy to see how this might occur. If Scouts BSA advertises “Scout Signup,” are the Girl Scouts marginalized by having to clearly distinguish their name? Does the organization historically known as the Boy Scouts have any right to accurately promote that it now wants both boys and girls to be Scouts?
The Boy Scouts said that allowing girls to join all its ranks was a natural progression for the organization and a must in our ever-changing society. While this was a necessary move for the organization, the Scouts BSA had to know and think about the difficulties the organization would have navigating trademark usage. The current trademark fight between Scouts BSA and Girl Scouts illustrates how easy it is for extremely complex and confusing trademark litigation to occur.
Whether you are accused of trademark infringement or believe someone else is infringing upon your trademark, you need to work with an experienced trademark attorney. At Burford Perry LLP, we work with our intellectual property clients to protect their trademarks and their business. Contact us today to talk with on of our experienced trademark lawyers.