California residents may be aware that the Boy Scouts of America started admitting girls in 2017, but they may not know that this decision has sparked a contentious legal dispute with the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. In a federal lawsuit filed in New York on Nov. 6, GSUSA alleges that BSA’s branding of some of its offerings as “Scouting” and “Scouts”infringes on its trademarks in a way that damages its brand and confuses the public.
The trademark infringement litigation claims that BSA’s rebranding will lead parents to believe that the services offered by GSUSA are not officially sanctioned scouting programs. The two organizations are not related but have coexisted amicably for more than 100 years. Unlike more conventional organizations, both BSA and GSUSA have congressional charters and the terms “Boy Scouts” and “Girl Scouts” are protected by special trademark laws.
In the lawsuit, GSUSA backs up its claims with images of flyers, news articles and online content that features the terms “Girl Scouts” and “Girl Scouts BSA”. Some of these images are said to be especially confusing due to their use of slogans and quotes commonly associated with GSUSA. BSA is also accused of using deceptive marketing practices such as purchasing online advertisements that appear when individuals run internet searches for terms such as “Girl Scouts”.
Logos, taglines and unique fonts are crucial components of an organization’s identity, and attorneys with intellectual property experience may advise a swift and rigorous response when trademarks are infringed upon. However, attorneys could seek to resolve these disputes at the negotiating table whenever possible, because this is an extremely complex area of the law and protracted litigation can be expensive.
Source: The ABA Journal, “Girl Scouts file trademark lawsuit against Boy Scouts”, Lorelei Laird, Nov. 7, 2018