Girl Scouts' lawsuit accuses Boy Scouts of trademark infringement

The Girl Scouts filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Boy Scouts, accusing the latter group of violating trademarks as it now lets girls into its programs.

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) accused the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) of trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution.

The Girl Scouts noted in the suit that while the word “scouts” is used in both youth organizations’ trademarks, the two groups are “distinct, with one offering leadership programming developed for and aimed at girls, and the other offering programming developed for and aimed at boys.”

“However, that core gender distinction between the two organizations and their use of the term SCOUTS and variations thereof has been altered by BSA’s recent decision to offer all of its services to both boys and girls of all ages for the first time in its long history,” the lawsuit said. “Indeed, even though GSUSA and BSA have congressional charters and separate grants of intellectual property rights that are specific to girls and boys, respectively, BSA is now using its trademarks in a manner that is both new and uniquely damaging to GSUSA, its trademarks and their underlying goodwill.”

Following the move to allow girls into its programs, the Boy Scout organization has attempted to swing its “core brand identity” toward the simple designation “scouts.” By the Girl Scouts' reckoning, the Boy Scout organization has no authority to do, according to the lawsuit.

“BSA does not have the right under either federal or New York law to use terms like SCOUTS or SCOUTING by themselves in connection with services offered to girls, or to rebrand itself as ‘the Scouts’ and thereby falsely communicate to the American public that it is now the organization exclusively associated with leadership development services offered under that mark to girls.

The change would spur public confusion, tarnish the Girl Scouts’ trademarks, erode the group’s persona and “marginalize” its “movement by causing the public to believe that GSUSA’s extraordinarily successful services are not true or official ‘scouting’ programs,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit charged that misinformation has spread through parts of the country, including that the two organizations have joined forces and that the Girl Scouts have dissolved. Families have since “mistakenly” registered girls up for the new programs from the Boy Scouts.

“BSA regional councils and troops have used the GIRL SCOUTS trademarks in their advertising and marketing materials since BSA’s announcement occurred,” the lawsuit said. “BSA is even using quotations from GSUSA’s founder, Juliette Gordon Low, about the value of GIRL SCOUTS programs to promote BSA’s newly launched services.”

And despite the Girl Scouts efforts make the Boy Scouts aware of the “instances of actual confusion,” the lawsuit claimed that “the unauthorized uses of GSUSA’s intellectual property, they keep recurring.”

“Only GSUSA has the right to use the GIRL SCOUTS and SCOUTS trademarks with leadership development services for girls,” the lawsuit said. “To the extent BSA wishes to open its programs to girls, it cannot do so using GSUSA’s intellectual property without authorization, in a manner that causes confusion among the public and harms the goodwill of the GIRL SCOUTS trademarks.”

In a statement to Fox News, the Boy Scouts said the lawsuit had been brought to their attention and "are reviewing it carefully."

“Our decision to expand our program offerings for girls came after years of requests from families who wanted the option of the BSA’s character- and leadership-development programs for their children – boys and girls. We believe that we owe it to our current and future members to offer families the options they want," the statement said.

“We applaud every organization that builds character and leadership in children, including the Girl Scouts of the USA, and believe that there is an opportunity for both organizations to serve girls and boys in our communities," the statement continued.