Scouts BSA Seek To End Girl Scouts' Trademark Lawsuit By Brazenly Claiming No Confusion Does Or Will Exist

from the scout's-honor dept

We've been covering the lawsuit brought by The Girl Scouts of America against Scouts BSA, formerly The Boy Scouts of America, for some time. In the two posts that covered the suit, the GSA has alleged all kinds of very real confusion in the marketplace for female scoutting as a result of the branding change by Scouts BSA, which include:

-“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.

Those appear to be verifiable, real-world claims of confusion as a result of the BSA rebranding to a more generic name, all in the context of a world where the BSA and GSA have long been separated along gender lines. Why it should be any surprise that confusion exists here is beyond me. It seems like roughly the most predictable thing in the world to have happened, particularly when you account for the actions of local Scouts BSA organizations that seemed to actively attempt to instill such confusion.

In fact, perhaps the most surprising thing now is that Scouts BSA is asking a judge for a summary judgement that no confusion has or will exist.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan will hear oral arguments on the Boy Scouts' motion for summary judgment, in which it argued that rebranding as "Scouts BSA" and advertising to girls won't cause confusion with the Girl Scouts.

The Boy Scouts said in a statement that it has been clear that the groups are separate organizations, and trusts that "families choose organizations for their children with great care." Rachel Kassabian of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan represents the Boy Scouts.

This is belied, again, by the examples of confusion that have not been specifically refuted as well as some of the confusion-inducing actions taken by Scouts BSA local chapters. It's also a simple matter to remind the public that the BSA has itself been extremely protective of all manner of its IP in the past, making this not solely a story about spurious claims of non-confusion, but also one of hypocrisy.

We'll await the ruling by the judge on this motion, but it would be very strange if Scouts BSA prevailed.

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Filed Under: likelihood of confusion, scouts, trademark
Companies: boy scouts of america, girl scouts of america, scouts bsa


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Sep 2021 @ 6:32pm

    'If you could just ignore their evidence Your Honor...'

    'I reject your reality and substitute my own' certainly makes for a... novel legal argument, I'll give them that, though asserting that there's no confusion when the other side has provided multiple examples of just that probably isn't going to go over to well with a judge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2021 @ 9:06pm

    What's for supper132?

    Spam, apparently. The Hormel company should be told.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ted the IT Guy (profile), 16 Sep 2021 @ 4:02am

    As a person involved in both programs...

    I have been involved with bot Boy/Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts for many years. The organization, program structure and materials differ rather significantly.

    Some girls are now joining BOTH programs for the challenge - we had one girl that finished her Gold Award and joined BSA to get Eagle Scout. Another joined Cub scouts because the Girl Scouts wouldn't let her use a knife.

    Some girls choose BSA because the GSUSA program is either too 'girly' or because it seems a little patronizing at times. My wife actually bought BSA handbooks for her entire GS troop as reference material because the official GS materials for First Aid and Outdoor Skills were both expensive and poorly written.

    Say what you will about both programs, but there is no mistaking them - except maybe if you don't look too hard. (idiot in a hurry?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2021 @ 12:21pm

      Re: As a person involved in both programs...

      1) You'd have to experience both already in order to not mistake them.

      2) BSA chapters apparently keep trying to confuse the two.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aethercowboy (profile), 16 Sep 2021 @ 5:14am

    It's not just morons in a hurry

    I've had to explain to several non-moronic people that the two groups didn't merge (or any other variation on that theme) when BSA dropped the B in their enrollment process.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2021 @ 5:49am

    it would be very strange if Scouts BSA prevailed.

    Strange? I'm not so sure. I'd simply put that down to the BSA winning the bad judge lottery, and hope for a smackdown on appeal.

    Wrong? Absolutely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2021 @ 6:34am

    BSA experienced a bunch of bad PR the last 10 years. Meanwhile GSA has been experiencing the opposite. So of course BSA decides to capitalize on that and horn in and steal their thunder. Keep shining a light on BSA's bad behavior, TechDirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 16 Sep 2021 @ 7:13am

    Glad

    I'm glad my church cut ties with BSA, even if it was for the wrong reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2021 @ 7:21am

    Why do people hate the scouts becoming more inclusive so much?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Paul B, 16 Sep 2021 @ 7:55am

      Re:

      People hate change. Opening up to everyone is a change that was needed.

      Also this covers a time when kids discover sexuality and splitting the genders is a cheap way to ensure nothing bad happens (not really, but that's what people tell themselves)

      Boy Scouts, after some bad legal problems chose to attack the problem head on, People who liked the old ways are of course mad at this.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2021 @ 12:23pm

      Re:

      Who the hell knows with people like that.

      If you meant this article, the court case, or comments here, you are barking up a whole forest of wrong trees.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 16 Sep 2021 @ 9:40am

    Forget everything else. It's all about the cookies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Sep 2021 @ 10:30am

    ""families choose organizations for their children with great care.""

    Are these the same families who sometimes forget kids in the backseat of the car?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2021 @ 12:28pm

    This is belied, again, by the examples of confusion that have not been specifically refuted as well as some of the confusion-inducing actions taken by Scouts BSA local chapters.

    The confusion seems to be rather intentionally generated. Scouts BSA seems to be addressing this as if something was claimed to be too similar, whereas what happened isn't so much of a branding change, but literal attempt to trick more people into joining SBSA by pretending to be, be associated with, or be merged with, the GSA.

    Maybe that's moronic local parents only, but SBSA should not the hell be defending that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Sep 2021 @ 3:12pm

    Atheists are still banned in the BSA

    This may serve as a means to assure you're enrolling your daughter in the GSA and not the SBSA. Atheists are still not allowed in the Boy Scouts of America, while they are allowed in BSA

    LGBT+ folk have been accepted in the BSA since 2015 however the religious ministries closely affiliated with the BSA do not, so getting your LGBT+ kid into the SBSA is likely going to set them up for a lot of unchecked harassment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 16 Sep 2021 @ 3:42pm

      Re: Atheists are still banned in the BSA

      LGBT+ folk have been accepted in the BSA since 2015 however the religious ministries closely affiliated with the BSA do not, so getting your LGBT+ kid into the SBSA is likely going to set them up for a lot of unchecked harassment.

      Just sign them up for an organization not affiliated with a church. When I was a kid I went to Cub Scouts at my elementary school, and there was no religious organization involved.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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