Judge In Scouts BSA Trademark Case Says He's Going To Rule In Scouts BSA's Favor On Summary Judgement

from the scout's-honor dept

Well, well, it appears that this particular story is going to move faster than I had thought. And, to be frank, I kinda sorta get it. We had just discussed Scouts BSA, formerly The Boy Scouts of America, seeking summary judgement in the trademark suit brought by The Girl Scouts of America. You can go back through the old posts for the detailed context, but the short version is that the Boy Scouts decided girls aren’t as icky as they previously thought and rebranded as Scouts BSA to be more inclusive. This created a bunch of confusion with The Girl Scouts, some of it very much due to the actions of local Scouts BSA chapters, such as:

-“As a result of Boy Scouts’ infringement, parents have mistakenly enrolled their daughters in Boy Scouts thinking it was Girl Scouts,” the lawyers said, adding that this never occurred before 2018.

-The lawyers said Boy Scouts councils in Illinois acknowledging improperly using the Girl Scouts’ slogan in Cub Scout recruiting materials and pictures of Girl Scouts to promote a Boy Scouts “Scouts Sign-Up Night!”

-They said a western Massachusetts Boy Scouts council posted a recruiting flyer on Facebook including a photograph of a girl depicted in her Girl Scouts Brownie uniform.

-Meanwhile, Ohio Boy Scouts used the Girl Scouts trademark to try to get a local newspaper to write an article, suggesting a storyline entitled “Boy and Girl Scouts Looking for Members” even though the recruitment involved only the Boy Scouts, the lawyers said.

-Minnesota families looking to sign up their girls were erroneously told the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts have merged. Meanwhile, in Indiana and South Dakota, some parents mistakenly signed up their daughters to girls’ programs in the Boy Scouts.

It was due to those real examples of confusion that I had predicted the judge in the case would not rule for Scouts BSA on summary judgement… but it appears I was wrong. And perhaps specifically on the trademark question, the judge is right when he spoke openly about his intention to find in favor of Scouts BSA.

A Manhattan federal judge said Wednesday during a hearing that the Boy Scouts of America didn’t infringe the Girl Scouts’ trademarks by using the term “Scouting” to advertise to girls.

Senior U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in what he called “temporary findings,” said he planned to rule for the Boy Scouts on its summary judgment motion, finding the group can use the general word “Scouting” to describe its co-ed programs without causing confusion with the Girl Scouts.

“‘Boy Scouts’ is a brand, ‘Girl Scouts’ is a brand, but ‘Scouting’ alone is an activity,” Hellerstein said.

And he’s right about that. The truth is probably that nobody should have a trademark on the term “scouting”. It’s entirely descriptive of what the organization is and does. If this ruling is centered strictly on the claim of trademark infringement, I can see it making sense.

Which leaves the issue of the actual customer confusion here and what to do about it. The GSA notes as much itself.

Ewing responded that the Girl Scouts weren’t trying to stop the Boy Scouts from offering services to girls, and only wanted to stop the Boy Scouts from causing confusion.

“The issue is unfair competition and the way in which Boy Scouts is marketing and branding its services – it is not doing so in a way that communicates to the public who the sponsor is and what the organization is, and the law allows a remedy for that,” Ewing said.

Given the examples of confusion born from the tactics of Scouts BSA marketing, it appears there would be a valid trademark infringement claim based on those actions, just not for the use of “scout” or “scouting” in general.

Regardless, it appears the court is going to rule for Scouts BSA on this suit. I imagine the GSA may want to file suit instead for the individual infringement claims based on the marketing material, which I cannot imagine Scouts BSA winning at the summary judgement phase.

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Companies: girl scouts of america, scouts bsa

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Comments on “Judge In Scouts BSA Trademark Case Says He's Going To Rule In Scouts BSA's Favor On Summary Judgement”

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Ehud Gavron (profile) says:


The truth is probably that nobody should have a trademark on the term "scouting". It’s entirely descriptive of what the organization is and does

You might want to look up the word "scouting". It’s nothing like what the pedophiles running the BSA do and nothing like the baking events and cookie sales the GSA do.

Neither organization does "scouting" and neither has either a claim to the word or a legitimacy to being the "only" organization that allows kids of either sex (wait, are we back to only two sexes now?) to do.

There may have been a time — but this isn’t it. Whether or not parents were "confused" into signing up young women for the BSA or young men for the GSA isn’t as irrelevant as the two leech organizations themselves.


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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Scouting"

You might want to look it up in websters as well, As There have been two definitions and one of them has been
the activities of various national and worldwide organizations for youth directed to developing character, citizenship, and individual skills
And both the Girl and Boy scouts have used scouting to refer to their activities for at least over 100 years.

Sorry, Actual use of the word disagrees with your post.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Scouting"

"Sorry, Actual use of the word disagrees with your post."

Factual reality seems to have his back here. I’m not too sure I ever believed in the boy/girl scout creeds that much but I’m quite convinced that if these organizations find themselves in lawsuits over a trivial issue they ought to just sit down and settle in peace then I for one am seriously questioning the character and skills they think themselves fit to teach the younger generation.

This may be an elephant in the room already covered in other comments, but how come the major reaction by most people isn’t just a deep, disappointed sigh and a disillusioned headshake given what organizations are involved in this?

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Rudy says:

Re: "Scouting"

Saying that “pedophiles” run the BSA may be easy for you but not only is it wrong in an obvious way, but it contributes to a false notion that makes it harder for adult volunteers to run Scouting programs.

The abuse claims are historical. The BSA has long since required extensive Youth Protection policies. States like mine add additional requirements for criminal records checks and background investigations. The people who go through these processes are volunteers dedicated to serving the nation’s youth.

You could just as easily claim though that pediatricians and coaches are pedophiles. You could be right in some very few instances but that certainly does a great disservice to the vast majority.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "Scouting"

Thank you for saying this. I’ve had to do a lot of training and background checks for my time with BSA. 3-4 years ago, the YPT was pretty crappy. And I’ll be honest when I say I was annoyed that they invalidated our training and made us retake the new training. But honestly, the new training was so much better that when I was done I didn’t feel like I had wasted an hour of my time, which so much of the CBT I’ve had to take does.

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Rudy says:

Boy Scouts of America

Somehow many people misunderstand this case and the name change. The organization is still Boy Scouts of America and has run programs for boys and girls (and young men and young women) for many years. The BSA has separate programs with focus on different age groups and methods of scouting. One is Venturing for all youth from age 14 to 20. Venturing has been “coed” the longest.

The basic misunderstood change was from “Boy Scouts” to “Scouts BSA.” This is where the option to have troops for girls came in. Whereas one was definitely a “Boy Scout” (or just “Scout”), now one was a member of Scouts BSA, or just a Scout.

Anonymous Coward says:

I give BSA 3-5 years

First they went all the way to the SC to keep out teh gays, which lost them a huge share of liberal America. Then they belatedly reversed course, all the way and then some, to lose a huge share of conservative America. Now they have these huge lawsuit bills and a bankruptcy plan that is going to get them kicked out of their largest chartering organization. I don’t know how they survive.

Which is a damn shame. Philmont is a national treasure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I give BSA 3-5 years

I hope BSA stays around for a long time. The "old guard" is what kept the gays, and the atheists and the girls out. A lot of them have died and newer, younger, more progressive leadership has taken its place. In all my time of being a den leader, ASM, scout parent, I’ve found two groups universally opposed to these changes. 70 year old "christian" women, and mid-life crisis men who were Eagle Scouts.

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Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Forced Mergers

Reality is that the Judge should solve the problem by forcing the two organizations to merge …

Not in any reality in these United States. Judges don’t "force" organizations to "merge". In contrast, organizations that are in violation of the law may be forced to divest, break apart, form subsidiaries, etc. but that requires legal basis.

Seriously "…some women that want to be men…" You really ought to join the current century of thinking.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Forced Mergers

"…You really ought to join the current century of thinking."

You’re old enough on these boards, Ehud, to recall where "Shel10" is coming from. He may not be amenable to rational discourse if it comes from a source which sounds a little too jewish, latin or black.

He and his good colleague "Restless94110" get their narrative from Stormfront. They aren’t interested in facts contradicting their dystopian fairy tale of racial supremacy and hating on teh gay.

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