Gender-Neutral Rebrand Inspires Trademark Suit by Girl Scouts

MANHATTAN (CN) – The Girl Scouts of the United States of America brought a trademark and interference lawsuit on Tuesday against the Boy Scouts of America for ditching the word “boy” from its namesake youth program as part of their newly inclusive rebrand.

Patches cover the back of a Girl Scout’s vest at a June 18, 2018, demonstration of some of their activities in Seattle. The Girl Scouts of the United States of America filed a trademark infringement lawsuit on Nov. 6 against the Boy Scouts of America for dropping the word “boy” from its flagship program in an effort to attract girls. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Represented by the firm Dorsey & Whitney, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America balked at the use by the Boy Scouts of the trademarks “Scout,” “Scouting,” “Family Scouting” and “Scout Me In” to recruit girls into its programs.

The 50-page complaint in the Southern District of New York argues that the Boy Scouts of America do not have the right under federal or New York law to use the “Scout” terms in connection with youth programming 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.”

“Only GSUSA has the right to use the GIRL SCOUTS and SCOUTS trademarks with leadership development services for girls,” the Girl Scouts say in the complaint, using an abbreviation for their name.

The complaint alleges that some parents have been told that the Boy Scouts are the “official” Scouts, which has prompted some parents to question to Girls Scouts of the United States representatives if their longstanding Girl Scouts services are properly authorized.

The Girl Scouts’ filing seeks an order for the Boy Scouts to withdraw their trademark applications for “Scouts BSA” and “Scout Life” marks.

Tuesday’s suit comes just over a year after the Boy Scouts announced on Oct. 11, 2017, that the organization would be welcoming girls into their programming. The Boy Scouts have since set a February 2019 start date for the launch of the new inclusive program for youth who are ages 11 to 17 formerly known as “Boy Scouts” under the new trademark “Scouts BSA,” with members being called “Scouts.”

In the same announcement in 2018, the Boy Scouts also unveiled their their “Scout Me In” marketing campaign, celebrating the expansion of their Cub Scout program for younger children to include girls.

The Girl Scouts’ complaint notes that “Scout Me In” video advertisements prominently feature girls and include statements by girls such as “the Scouting world starts with my very best, right now self, and will lead me to my very best future self. Scouting will show me a kid who is brave, trustworthy, loyal and kind,” referencing traits from the longstanding Boy Scout Law that “a Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”

In a 2018 press release, the Boy Scouts of America said that the “Scout Me In” campaign shifted the marketing perspective to show the Scouts’ experience from a child’s point of view, “instead of simply showing Scouts participating in activities, the campaign brings the young viewer into the middle of the action – from fishing, biking and canoeing to launching rockets and making slime – where they get even closer to the experiences that Scouting brings to life.”

The “Scout Me In” recruiting campaign was developed by Dallas, Texas-based advertising agency Johnson & Sekin, which described the tagline as “an energetic, youthful phrase that, at the heart, is about inclusiveness.”

The Boy Scouts of America did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Following a controversial speech by Donald Trump at the Boy Scouts’ 2017 National Jamboree, the organization issued an apology “to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree.”

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