Judge Tosses Girl Scouts' Suit Arguing Branding Confusion

Boy Scouts can avoid gender references by using 'scouting,' ruling says
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2020 9:25 AM CST
Updated Apr 7, 2022 6:45 PM CDT
Girl Scouts Accuse Boy Scouts of 'Explosion of Confusion'
In this Feb. 18, 2020, file photo, Boy Scouts of America uniforms are displayed in the retail store at the headquarters for the French Creek Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Erie, Pa.   (Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP)

Update: The Girl Scouts have lost the legal argument that its brand and recruiting efforts have been damaged by the wording used by Boy Scouts in marketing. Because Boy Scouts are entitled to leave gender out of it by using "scouting" and similar terms, "there are no issues to be tried," US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein of Manhattan wrote in dismissing the lawsuit, per the New York Times. "The Boy Scouts adopted the scout terms to describe accurately the coed nature of programming, not to confuse or exploit Girl Scouts' reputation," as the suit had argued, Hellerstein said. A statement from the Girl Scouts said the ruling will be appealed. Our original story from December 2020 follows:

It's like picking teams for dodgeball in gym class—except everyone wants the girls. In papers filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, attorneys for the Girl Scouts of the United States of America pushed back against what they call "highly damaging" trademark infringement by the Boy Scouts of America, with the former accusing the latter of poaching potential female members from their ranks by engaging in unfair marketing and recruitment, the AP reports. Specifically, the Girl Scouts claim that, since the Boy Scouts started accepting girls in 2017, the group has hijacked the Girl Scouts' intellectual property, dropping the word "boy" in their recruitment materials and including Girl Scout slogans, photos, and terms like "Girl Scouting" instead. The Girl Scouts say it's to the point where some families thought they were enrolling their girls in Girl Scouts, not Boy Scouts, resulting in an "explosion of confusion," per the legal filing.

"For the last century, the Girl Scouts trademark has become understood to designate the source of scouting services for girls," notes the filing, part of a 2018 Girl Scouts lawsuit, per the New York Times. "Now, because of what Boy Scouts has done, that distinctiveness is being slowly eroded." The filing adds that the mistaken enrollment of girls in Boy Scouts never happened before 2018, which is when the Cub Scouts started welcoming girls. The Boy Scouts, however, say the Girl Scouts have launched a "ground war" against them due to the "anger and alarm" they've felt over the Boy Scouts' outreach to girls, which has resulted in "more than 120,000 girls and young women" joining Cub Scouts or Scouts BSA. According to the latest figures, the Boy Scouts enjoy a US membership of 2.3 million (not counting adult volunteers), while the Girl Scouts claim 1.7 million members, per the BBC. (More Girl Scouts stories.)

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