7 November 2018Trademarks

Battle of the sexes: Girl Scouts takes on Boy Scouts over rebranding efforts

The US Girl Scouts yesterday took the country’s Boy Scouts to court for trademark infringement.

The lawsuit, which was filed at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, stems from the Boy Scouts’ decision to drop ‘Boy’ from its name and accept girls into its ranks.

In May, the Boy Scouts announced that it would be called Scouts BSA from February 2019 and will make all of its services available to girls.

However, the Girl Scouts has taken issue with the rebranding, claiming that not only will the new name erode the Girl Scouts’ brand identity, but that it will also marginalise the Girl Scouts movement by causing the public to believe that its “extraordinarily successful services are not true or official ‘scouting’ programmes, but niche services with limited utility and appeal”.

According to the Girl Scouts, the rebranding has already caused confusion, with families and schools being told that the two associations have merged, or even that the Girl Scouts no longer exists.

The Boy Scouts’ regional councils and troops have also allegedly used the Girl Scouts’ trademarks in their advertising and marketing materials since the announcement in May this year.

The suit claimed that the Boy Scouts does not have the right to use terms including ‘Scouts’ or ‘Scouting’ by themselves in connection with services offered to girls, or to rebrand as ‘the Scouts’.

“Indeed, even though the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts have Congressional charters and separate grants of IP rights that are specific to girls and boys, respectively, Boy Scouts is now using its trademarks in a manner that is both new and uniquely damaging to Girl Scouts, its trademarks and their underlying goodwill,” said the suit.

The Boy Scouts has filed a series of trademark applications, including one for the ‘Scouts BSA’ mark with the US Patent and Trademark Office, based on its intent to use the mark for “educational services, namely, providing programmes and activities for youth” in class 41.

The Girl Scouts is seeking injunctive relief against the Boy Scouts using the marks ‘Scout’, ‘Scouts’, ‘Scouting’ and ‘Scouts BSA’ without an “inherently distinctive or distinguishing term appearing immediately before it” in any marketing of services directed to girls.

It is also seeking that the Boy Scouts be ordered to provide training to its councils and troops to prevent confusion, and to withdraw its trademark applications.

A spokesperson for the Girl Scouts said: "The action Girl Scouts took today is in keeping with standard practice in any field, and we did what any brand, company, corporation, or organisation would do to protect its IP and the value of its brand in the marketplace, and to defend its good name.”

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19 May 2022   Whether by design or decree, rebranding a business is beset with challenges, finds Tom Phillips.
8 April 2022   The Boy Scouts of America can use its gender-neutral marketing to advertise programmes without causing consumer confusion with trademarks held by the Girl Scouts, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York has ruled.