January 28, 2019
The Boy Scouts of America (“Boy Scouts”) reportedly plan to drop “boy” from their name and rebrand simply as “Scouts”, after announcing they will now accept girls into their programs. Boy Scouts recently launched a Scout In Me campaign to celebrate programs that will be inclusive of both girls and boys.
The change has apparently resulted in confusion among the public as to which programs are offered by Boy Scouts versus the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (“Girl Scouts”). As a result, Girl Scouts filed suit against Boy Scouts in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for trademark infringement. The dispute centers on the use of the word “scout” without a gender modifier.
The complaint states that, throughout history, both organizations have “coexisted” because the Boy Scouts “trademark is a symbol of youth development programs that…have been aimed at, led by and developed primarily for boys,” while the Girl Scouts' “brand identity” has been the “famous, registered Girl Scouts trademarks”. The suit alleges that confusion among names will “marginalize the Girl Scouts Movement by causing the public to believe that [the Girl Scouts’] extraordinarily successful services are not true or official ‘Scouting’ programs, but niche services with limited utility and appeal.”
Girl Scouts further argues that Boy Scouts does not have the right under federal or state law to use terms such as SCOUTS or SCOUTING by themselves in connection with services offered to girls, or to rebrand itself as “Scouts”. This, they claim, will falsely represent that Boy Scouts is now the organization exclusively associated with leadership services offered under that mark to girls.