Boy vs. Girl as Girl Scouts Sue the Boy Scouts

The Girl Scouts are fighting back!

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America filed a trademark infringement lawsuit on Monday against the Boy Scouts of America for dropping the word “Boy” from its flagship program in an effort to attract girls.

In the case filed in Manhattan federal court, the Girls Scouts claim that the Boy Scouts do not have the right to use “Scouts” or “Scouting” by themselves or in connection with services offered to girls, only in connection with boys.  The gist is that both organizations are chartered by Congress, one to offer “Scouting” to boys, one to offer “Scouting” to girls, so neither should be allowed to brand itself as “the Scouts” as BSA is trying to do.

The lawsuit comes as BSA is about to open its main program to girls starting in February 2019.  BSA started allowing girl-only Cub Scout packs in June 2018. Cub Scouting is the program for six- to ten-year-olds. Starting next February, the traditional “Boy Scout” program for 11- to 17-year-olds will be open to girls. Troops are supposed to be all-boy or all-girl.

To reflect the changes, BSA announced last May that it was changing the name of the “Boy Scout” program to “Scouts BSA” starting in February 2019. The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America, and other BSA programs like Cub Scouts, Venturing, and Explorers will keep theirs.  (Interestingly, Explorers has been co-ed since 1969, which you can read about here.)

The Girl Scouts are justifiably upset with the Boy Scouts poaching their members.  Its official response to BSA’s announcement about admitting young girls was blistering:

The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire. Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA’s senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls.

The Girls Scouts was founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, a year after the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts were very much opposed to the girls’ group and, in 1915, sued them for using the word Scouts, claiming they “sissified” the word.

Boy Scout membership has been dropping for many years. The organization took a big hit this year when the LDS Church announced it was severing all ties with BSA. The Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts have been partners for over 100 years. Boy Scouts has been the official program for boys in the LDS Church and the Church sponsors 20 percent of Boy Scout members in the United States.  Making up for the loss of these Latter-day Saints members won’t be easy.

Maybe bringing in girls is the answer, at least to help BSA’s membership numbers. But at what cost to the “Scouting” programs chartered by Congress, one for Boy Scouts and one for Girl Scouts? For that matter, what is Congress doing, “chartering” these organizations anyway? But that is a topic for another day.

 

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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