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Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in trademark battle

Scouting veterans in Connecticut may be troubled to learn that two classic organizations beloved by many are embroiled in an intellectual property dispute. The Girl Scouts of the USA filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, after the Boy Scouts began using the trademarks "Scouts" and "Scouting" for activities for girls. The case was filed in November in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In their complaint, the Girl Scouts allege that the Boy Scouts' use of these terms for girls' programming has caused confusion among families looking to participate in Girl Scouting.

The lawsuit emerged from a background of a move toward greater inclusion in the Boy Scouts organization. In October 2017, the BSA announced that it would now welcome girls to join its programs, reversing 100 years of single-sex activities. It came after other changes to Boy Scout programs, including decisions to admit LGBT scouts and scout leaders. However, the Girl Scouts organization saw this move as a threat to its existence. The organization's national president said that the action "undercut" Girl Scouting. Anger increased after the Boy Scouts launched an advertising campaign specifically targeted toward girls and a rebranding as "Scouts BSA".

In the case, the Girl Scouts say that their organization has an exclusive right to use "Scout" and related trademarks for girls' programming. Therefore, they say that the BSA's use of the term violates their trademark rights, leading to consumer confusion and risking the marginalization of Girl Scout programs. They also cited examples when Boy Scout organizations used the term "Girl Scouts" to describe their programs for girls.

The case can evoke an emotional response precisely because trademarks are so important to many businesses and organizations. An intellectual property lawyer can help people to protect their creative content from potential infringement.

Source: IP Watchdog, "Girl Scouts File Trademark Complaint Against Rival Boy Scouts", Tiffani Otey, Dec. 27, 2018

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