Girl Scouts v Boy Scouts Recruitment trade mark dispute

Girl Scouts America (GSA) has launched a new filing against Boy Scouts America (BSA) following further rebranding efforts on the part of BSA to open their services to and incorporate girls. Specifically, GSA seeks to prevent BSA from using the terms ‘scouts’ and ‘scouting’ in its recruitment of girls, arguing it infringes trade marks.

In 2018, Boy Scouts announced it would officially change its name to ‘Scouts BSA’ in 2019, and began accepting girls in February 2019. GSA originally filed to sue BSA in 2018, claiming their marketing methods targeted at girls were ‘highly damaging’ to their own recruitment and the infringement had caused mass confusion to the public, as parents have mistakenly enrolled their daughters with BSA, believing it to have been the GSA.

These arguments have intensified over the past two years and lawyers for the GSA said they can provide ‘rampant instances’ of the confusion that had never occurred prior to 2018 and the two parties, although always offering similar programs, are now directly competitive in ways they previously were not. Examples demonstrating infringement presented included the Seattle BSA Council using the GSA trade mark in social media materials, the Massachusetts and Illinois BSA Councils using photographs of the GSA uniform in recruitment flyers and Ohio BSA Council using a story title “Boy and Girl Scouts Looking for Members”, although the recruitment concerned involved only the BSA.

However, the BSA have rejected these claims and at the end of December 2020, the GSA filed papers to repeal efforts by the BSA to throw out the trade mark lawsuit before trial. The BSA asked judges to reject claims that their use of the terms ‘scouts’ and ‘scouting’ in recruiting girls infringed trade marks, stating they chose to expand the program after ‘years of requests’ and implying confusion is not only inaccurate but also dismissive of the decisions of girls to join BSA.

The case is ongoing.

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