Put the Boy Back in Scouting

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 http://www.scouting.org, not http://www.boyscouts.org. (Girl Scouts use http://www.girlscouts.org.)

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:
Trademark

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

Boy_Scouts_of_America_Scouting_USA_1972-1987In 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.

JGL_Patents

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

Let’s Make Downloading Badges Legal

The 53rd Girl Scout National Convention is just a week away!! One of the highlights is always the super shop, with hundreds (thousands?) of Girl Scout goodies.

Of course, any mention of official Girl Scout products inevitably leads to complaints that the handbooks, badges, etc. cost too much. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I have no problem paying for Girl Scout books.

As a writer and editor, words are literally my income. I know that every book has an author, and I know that writing is hard work. Authors deserve to be paid. That is why it really bothers me to see leaders sharing photocopies of badge inserts or websites advertising free downloads of scanned journey books.  (While I don’t get paid to write this blog, it is an opportunity for potential clients to get to know me better.)

Junior Technology, the first online badge, was introduced in 1997.

Junior Technology, the first online badge, was introduced in 1997. Today’s Girl Scout can’t find any requirements online without breaking the law.

Let’s be honest and fair and admit that distributing bootleg scans of journey books and badge requirements constitutes theft. It is taking a person’s hard work without paying for it. Go ahead, argue “sharing” and “sisterhood” all you want, but if thieves share stolen goods among themselves, it does not make the theft acceptable. Would you walk into a Girl Scout shop, pocket a handful of badges, and walk out without paying? This is no different.

Let’s resolve to respect authority, including copyright law. The bootleggers know they are breaking the law, which explains why they try to shout down anyone who calls them out with nasty comments and name calling. Do we really have to put labels on every page, photo, design, etc. saying “Not yours. Don’t steal”?

I agree that the current program materials are a bit pricey, but I also realize that buyers are shouldering the cost of sales lost to illegal download sites.  I don’t think the Girl Scout way is to sneak around and try to subvert the system.

Instead, let’s ask GSUSA to make program publications available digitally for legal, inexpensive downloading. The Boy Scouts already make many of their badge guides available through Amazon Kindle. Would you pay $1.00 for a PDF of a badge insert? Perhaps $5 for a digital journey book? Sign me up.

Tell GSUSA that you’d like to legally download publications for your troop. I’ve started a Facebook page for people who like this idea: Girl Scout Publication PDFs Please.

Nation's Capital has a copy of the Trefoil Patent application.

Nation’s Capital has a copy of the Trefoil Patent application.

I think our founder would approve of this proposal.  Juliette Gordon Low understood the importance of intellectual property rights and secured a patent for the trefoil symbol.  She applied for the patent on November 23, 1913, and received it on February 10, 1914.

When Low decided to step down from the day-to-day operations of Girl Scouting in 1921, GSUSA asked that she surrender the patent to the organization.  She agreed, but on her own terms.

Stacy Cordery, Low’s recent biographer, recounts how Daisy shrewdly agreed to assign the patent to GSUSA in exchange for keeping her name on the organization’s Constitution, stationery, and membership cards in perpetuity.

Juliette Gordon Low had two patents of her own.

Juliette Gordon Low had two patents of her own. (Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

Daisy actually had two patents. The other is for the “Pluto Bag,” a stand-up trash bin for liquids. It reminds me of an origami project that got way out of control.

Want to learn more about intellectual property? The Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital has a their own intellectual property patch program for all age levels.

See you in Salt Lake City!

© 2014 by Ann Robertson

 

 

Archives Receives Copy of Trefoil Patent

The GSCNC Archives received an unexpected treat at our April 13, 2013, Annual Meeting.

Page from Trefoil patent application

Page from Trefoil patent application

Council President Diane Tipton had recently returned from a visit to her childhood home, where she ran into an old neighbor and friend.  He’s an avid collector of Boy Scout memorabilia who had also accumulated some Girl Scout items over the years. When he heard how involved Diane still is in Girl Scouting, he wanted her to have his Girl Scout items.  Diane then presented them to the committee.

GSCNC CEO Lidia Soto-Harmon (L), Archives Chair Ann Robertson, and GSCNC President Diane Tipton

GSCNC CEO Lidia Soto-Harmon (L), Archives Chair Ann Robertson, and GSCNC President Diane Tipton

Along with pins, badges, and a handbook, the donation included a copy of Juliette Gordon Low’s application to patent the trefoil symbol.  She applied for the patent on November 23, 1913, and received it on February 10, 1914.  Our donation includes the signature page; the original, two-page document is held at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah, Georgia.

When Low decided to step down from the day-to-day operations of Girl Scouting in 1921, GSUSA asked that she surrender the patent to the organization.  She agreed, but on her own terms.

Stacy Cordery, Low’s recent biographer, recounts how Daisy shrewdly agreed to assign the patent to GSUSA in exchange for keeping her name on the organization’s Constitution, stationery, and membership cards in perpetuity.

Daisy actually had two patents. The other is for the “Pluto Bag,” a stand-up trash bin for liquids. It reminds me of an origami project that got way out of control!

In honor of our founder’s two patents, GSCNC has been an exhibitor at the annual U.S. Patent and Trademark Expo held at the Patent Office in Alexandria, Virginia, each fall.  Last year we had directions for the trash bin at our booth, and dozens of girls and adults valiantly tried to make one.

The trefoil patent application will certainly be part of our booth display at the next Patent and Trademark Expo this fall.  Who knows, perhaps “Daisy” will make make another surprise visit to our booth this year!

Susan "Daisy" Ducey at the Patent and Trademark Expo, 2012

Susan “Daisy” Ducey at the Patent and Trademark Expo, 2012