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Girl Scouts accuse Boy Scouts of 'damaging' recruitment tactics


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Our "Scouts BSA Troop for Girls", which is the term we consistently use for identifying ourselves, has had about 60 girls and their parents visit with us during our open houses at the beginning of each semester.  I have met every one of them and none were even remotely "confused" about what program they were visiting.  Of the 45 girls who ultimately joined us, only two also continue their association with a former GSUSA unit.  Approximately 10 had previously been in Girl Scouts, but affirmatively joined us to associate with the BSA-style program, most often citing wanting to be part of a program they perceived was more outdoor-intensive.  They occasionally make critical comments about the product sale emphasis in the GSUSA, but other than that they have apparently moved-on or forgotten their experiences with that program.

The balance of the girls who joined us (and their parents) very clearly understand the association with BSA.  I have no plan to survey them on why they joined us because they very clearly joined us for the advancement and outdoor programs.  They love the fact that our girls operate a $50,000-per-year operation.  The suit to me sounds like an attempt to conflate isolated mistakes on the part of enthusiastic unit and district folks in the opening days of the effort into a false allegation of widespread of confusion or misrepresentation. 

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If the GSUSA had marketed their Gold Award half as effectively as they've promoted 'Thin Mints' and 'Do-Si-Do's' we wouldn't be in this mess.

That's a topic in itself. If I had time, I'd link to it. The short answer: "no". The lack of outside leadership to force BSA and GS/USA to work in lock-step led to their mutual erosion. Reflecting on

If you recall Surbagh's Town Hall video, he as much admitted they (National gang) was pretty much out of ideas on how to add members to the program.  The adding girls was a hail Mary.   In realit

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I should have directly stated that if we had taken the misguided approach of making ourselves appear to be associated with GSUSA, we would have not been successful.  The families that joined were not wanting GSUSA programming or whatever other attributes are offered by GSUSA.  Whatever the GSUSA “stands for”, our families are not looking for it.  

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11 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

I should have directly stated that if we had taken the misguided approach of making ourselves appear to be associated with GSUSA, we would have not been successful.  The families that joined were not wanting GSUSA programming or whatever other attributes are offered by GSUSA.  Whatever the GSUSA “stands for”, our families are not looking for it.  

That's not what the lawsuit is claiming exactly.

What GSUSA is claiming, and what BSA has admitted happened in at least 15 councils, is that parents were told or given the impression that GSUSA was disbanded and/or merged into BSA through the use of GSUSA's names, trademarks, logos, etc. In other words they were told that BSA now had "Girl Scouts".

You may have consistently used "Scouts BSA Troop for Girls" but I assure you not all did.

BSA is basically arguing in this lawsuit that yes, mistakes happened, councils and in particular certain staff and units didn't get the message clearly or transmit it clearly, but it was no big deal.

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@Cburkhardt, I think the number of girls who signed up shows that a very small number were confused about organization. However, I also think the corporate name injects a little marketing doublespeak. The program is, at its core, Boy Scouts for girls. So, retaining the program name “Boy Scouts of America” and adding a “for Girls” or “4G” would have been more plain spoken.

But, the larger problem is we have inherited West’s and Lowe’s intransigence. This disadvantages American youth in both groups.

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26 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

Is it your professional opinion that these admissions make the case for GSUSA?

I'm not a lawyer. What I am telling you is that

1) GSUSA says whether accidental or not, BSA councils, units, and National were infringing their copyrights left, right, and center and must a) stop it and b) pay.

2) BSA National's response has been to say oops this was accidental.

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I have no doubt that when the BSA first started the programs for girls at the Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA levels, some mistakes were made.  It did not take long for us to receive clear instructions that we were in no way supposed to represent that were "Girl Scouts".  Usually instructions like that come because someone made a bad choice and people recognized that more needed to be done.

Though I am not a Scoutmaster like @Cburkhardt, I've seen enough of what has gone on in the formation of our troop for girls to know that everyone involved knew that this was not the Girl Scouts. 

Let's recognize this for what it is.  Some units and some paid local professionals made some poor choices in the early days of rolling out the program for girls.  The GSUSA is attempting to leverage those mistakes in an effort to punish the BSA.  I expect that the GSUSA lawsuit is partly a rigorous attempt to protect it's branding and also partly an effort to harm the BSA out of spite.  I have no doubt that within the GSUSA inner circle they are hurt that the BSA made this choice several years ago.

I would suggest that we not feed into the GSUSA posturing.  There is absolutely no organized misdirection effort by BSA at the national level.  The BSA has been clear that we should not claim or suggest that we are GSUSA units.  The BSA is not attempting to mislead families into joining the BSA. 

There may still be people out there who make poor choices - both at a volunteer level and a local professional level.  When that happens I've no doubt that the BSA will stop it.    This is one time that the BSA is attempting to do the right thing and I think we should recognize that.

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5 minutes ago, CynicalScouter said:

No, I don't. I think it was an accident across the board.. GSUSA's claim is a) it wasn't an accident and b) even if it was an accident, BSA needs to pay for trademark infringement.

 

Thanks!  That mirrors what I've seen too.

I'm happy to let the lawyers battle out who needs to pay what as a result of these mistakes.  Myself, I'm willing to chalk to up to mistakes were made as long as the BSA does the right thing going forward.  To me, that would seem the Scouting way to handle it.  Somehow I do not expect that the GSUSA sees it the same way.

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17 minutes ago, CynicalScouter said:

BSA needs to pay for trademark infringement

From the examples I saw early on in the lawsuit, the infringement was done by units. So, if anything, the units would need to “pay”. It seems like. Or ally in these cases, they would first get a cease and desist. That is, unless those infringing made money off of it. They didn’t. 

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21 minutes ago, mrjohns2 said:

From the examples I saw early on in the lawsuit, the infringement was done by units. So, if anything, the units would need to “pay”. It seems like. Or ally in these cases, they would first get a cease and desist. That is, unless those infringing made money off of it. They didn’t. 

GSUSA is claiming that infringing the trademark alone entitled them to damages even if no one made any money off anything.

GSUSA is also separately claiming in fact BSA and units made money off this.

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WHEREFORE, GSUSA respectfully requests the following relief:
(l)That GSUSA be awarded damages in an amount sufficient to compensate it for harm caused by Defendant’s acts;

(m)That this Court order an accounting of Defendant’s profits earned as a result of Defendant’s unlawful activities and disgorge all of said profits to GSUSA;

(n)That GSUSA be awarded three times Defendant’s profits and three times GSUSA’s damages suffered as a result of Defendant’s willful, intentional, and deliberate acts in violation of the Lanham Act and New York law;

Moreover, GSUSA is basically saying that BSA National controls how this was rolled out and controls the units and councils (and in particular use of branding and trademarks), therefore it is National that needs to pay.

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47.Upon information and belief, Defendant also issues charters to each of its local BOY SCOUT councils, and each local council identified in this complaint is currently chartered with Defendant. Upon information and belief, as a condition of maintaining their charters, and the concomitant right to use the BOY SCOUTS trademarks and variations thereof, each regional BOY SCOUTS council is required to pay fees to BSA. Upon information and belief, all BOY SCOUTS troop members and leaders are likewise required to be members of BSA and pay membership dues to BSA in order to remain in operation and retain the right to use the BOY SCOUTS trademarks.48.Defendant has stated that “[i]t is the council’s responsibility to provide leadership and supervision for all program activities within the territory covered by its charter in such a manner as to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Charter and Bylaws of the BoyScouts of America and the Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America. The local council is an administrative organization charged with fulfilling the purpose of the movement.” See Exh. G at pg. 7.



There's also the separate issue of BSA using terms like "Scouting" outside the context of boys only.

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41.Defendant has long acknowledged that use of the SCOUT or SCOUTING marks, unaccompanied by distinguishing terms or devoid of context, even in connectionwith itsprograms for boys, could result in confusion. For example, on January 23, 1979, Defendant conceded in a letter to GSUSA that its use of its SCOUTING/USA mark (which obviously combines SCOUTING with the merely descriptive and therefore non-distinctive term “USA”) could mislead the public into believing that GSUSA is affiliated with BSA, or could be confusing to donors who intended to donate to BSA or GSUSA. For this reason, BSA took care at that time to make sure that its councils and troops included BSA’s full name in marketing materials in which that mark was used. A true and accurate copy of this correspondence is attached as Exhibit D. Upon information and belief, this trademark is no longer used by BSA.

42. In another communication sent by BSA to GSUSA on April 26, 1978, Defendant stated that it had taken “several steps that should assist potential public confusion that the communicative term Scouting/USA also refers to [GSUSA]. For one thing, we have instructed our Scouters, including our Public Relations staff, to use the term sparingly, and when it is used to always also feature the words ‘Boy Scouts of America.’” A true and accurate copy of this correspondence is attached as Exhibit E. Significantly, these steps to prevent potential confusion caused by the use of the term SCOUTING/USA were taken, even though BSA only admitted boys to its central programs at that time.

43.Defendant has therefore long recognized both: (i) GSUSA’s trademark rights in the GS Marks, including SCOUTS and SCOUTING, when used in connection with leadership programs for girls and related services and products; and (ii) that Defendant’s use of the terms SCOUT or SCOUTING preceded by other distinguishing terms, or outside of a context making clear that the services in question are directed to boys, would be likely to cause confusion

 

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In Montana, the outdoor emphasis of Scouts BSA is attracting girls to the program...girls who would not be in any scouting program had Scouts BSA not offered them an opportunity. Second reason for joining Scouts BSA/cub scouts is having a brother in the program. 

Seems to me that this is sour grapes from the Girl Scouts, but I am not a lawyer or a judge. 

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2 minutes ago, Owls_are_cool said:

In Montana, the outdoor emphasis of Scouts BSA is attracting girls to the program...girls who would not be in any scouting program had Scouts BSA not offered them an opportunity. Second reason for joining Scouts BSA/cub scouts is having a brother in the program. 

Seems to me that this is sour grapes from the Girl Scouts, but I am not a lawyer or a judge. 

It's both.

First, keep in mind when BSA announced this, GSUSA came out with a statement that was nothing short of insulting.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/girl-scouts-slam-boy-scouts-decision-accept-girls/story?id=50433448

Quote

“The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” Girl Scouts told ABC News in a statement. “Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA’s senior management wants to add an accelerate to the house fire by recruiting girls.”

Second, SOME units and councils screwed up the rollout and in fact did us GSUSA logos, trademarks, etc., effectively handing GSUSA this lawsuit on a platter.

So it is both legitimate (there was trademark infringement, everyone agrees, BSA however claims it was minimal) and sour grapes.

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Reminds me as if Burger King were to sue ChickFilA because people like ChickFilA better.  Both have a product called "chicken sandwich and fries".  If Burger King is losing market share, it's up to them to figure out why and improve their product and marketing.  

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