This week Girl Scouts of the USA filed a trademark lawsuit against the Boy Scouts.

Specifically, GSUSA objects to the other organization’s new name, Scouts BSA. Members would be known as “Scouts.” The Boy Scouts embraced this new name following its 2017 decision to admit girls to its ranks.

GSUSA argues that the gender-neutral “Scouts BSA” is confusing. The public might mistakenly believe that the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have merged into a new organization or that the Girl Scouts no longer exist.

According to the complaint (Case 1:18-cv-10287):

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.  Such misconduct will not only cause confusion among the public, damage the goodwill of GSUSA’s GIRL SCOUTS trademarks, and erode its core brand identity, but it will also marginalize the GIRL SCOUTS Movement by causing the public to believe that GSUSA’s extraordinarily successful services are not true or official “Scouting” programs, but niche services with limited utility and appeal.

The Boy Scouts have long clouded the waters by appropriating “scouting” for its online identity. The organization’s URL is, not (Girl Scouts use

What is a Trademark?

Trademarks are names. Trademark infringement is a form of identity theft. If you discovered someone using your name, you’d tell them to knock it off too.

According to the website Market Business News:
, Girl Scout History Project

A trademark is a sign or symbol we can use to distinguish our business’ goods or services from those of other enterprises. It is a symbol, word or words legally registered or established by long-term use as representing a company or its product.
Market Business News

Here We Go Again

Girl Scouts of the USA is 106 years old. It has had name disputes with the Boy Scouts for at least 105 years.

For years, BSA Chief James E. West repeatedly threatened to sue the Girl Scouts because our use of the term “sissified” and “trivialized” the word “scout.”  In 1924 he even had a lawsuit drawn up, but never filed it.

I recently discovered another identity crisis in the minutes of the January 1978 GSUSA Board of Directors meeting:

“Reports have been received from councils about the use of this term which is confusing to local committees. No meeting has been arranged as yet with the Boy Scout President. The United Way has been inadvertently promoting Scouting/USA and has been made aware of the problem and our position. The Board will be kept informed of any further developments.”

GSUSA Board of Directors meeting minutes, January 1978

, Girl Scout History ProjectIn 1977, the Boy Scouts rebranded themselves as “Scouting/USA.” Officials explained that the word “boy” offended minority troops and girls in Explorer posts. They also regarded Scouting/USA as an umbrella term that would encompass Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Explorers. That very same argument has been offered to justify the current Scouts BSA label.

The result was confusion, as indicated by the Board Minutes. The Girl Scouts objected, and the new name faded into obscurity.

Hopefully, this latest round will be settled quickly and amicably as well.

More on Intellectual Property

Trademarks, like copyright and patent, are all forms of intellectual property. Juliette Gordon Low was awarded two patents herself, one for the membership pin and one for a freestanding trash can.

, Girl Scout History Project

To help teach girls about these concepts, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital and the US Patent and Trademark Office teamed up in 2012 to create a patch program.

Troops in Nation’s Capital can borrow a program kit to earn the patch. The USPTO
also has information about the program available online.


©2018 Ann Robertson

5 responses to “Put the Boy Back in Scouting”

  1. The Girl Scouts of the United States of America, Incorporated, have NO CHOICE but to DEFEND in COURT our rights. Expensive, but more so would be the erosion of our identity if we did not.

  2. If the BSA had chosen to act ethically before now the Girl Scouts would not have been forced to do this. Deceptive and unethical marketing has been the standard since registration has started. My neice watched moms attend a BSA registration meeting looking for Girl Scouts. The BSA members pretended they were Girl Scouts. My niece corrected the lies and sent the moms to the local council. BSA members have shown up at formal GS events causing trouble. This is not what Lord Baden Powell would have wanted!

  3. I think Lord Baden Powell is rolling in his grave.

  4. This is a complete waste of Girl Scout money. Were the girls given an option to vote as to if they wanted their money spent this way?

    How about really listening to what all girls want, not just focus groups, and stregthen our own program rather than sueing the boys for improving theirs! What kind of message are yoh sending? If we had a strong program girls would not want to leave. Over the years I have heard many complaints of not enough leaders to service the girls so girls do not get placed. Endless complaints of never getting a call back from a request for a troop. We need to look at why we are loosing girls and fix it. That is what they are doing.

    I do not support this.

  5. I support the Girl Scouts for filing this lawsuit. We cannot let other organizations siphon off future Girl Scouts. I am also support of GIRL Scout and not mixing the boy and girl scouts together. Girls need a safe place to be themselves.

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