NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday dismissed claims by the Girl Scouts that the Boy Scouts had caused confusion in the market and hampered their recruiting efforts using words like “scouts” and “scouting” in their recruiting campaigns.
Manhattan Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ruled that the Boy Scouts of America could describe their activities as “scouting” without referring to gender and that the matter did not need to go to a jury.
Hellerstein said her written decision caps “serious, contentious and costly” litigation and necessitates the dismissal of the lawsuit brought by the Girls Scouts of the United States of America.
The lawsuit was filed in late 2018, a year after the Boy Scouts announced Scouting and Scouting would be open to girls, leading the organizations to compete for members after social trends and an increase in participation to sports leagues have been dropping membership numbers for decades. The pattern worsened when the pandemic hit.
“Boy Scouts adopted the terms Scouting to accurately describe the coed nature of programming, not to confuse or exploit the reputation of Girl Scouts,” Hellerstein wrote. “Such branding is consistent with the Scout branding the Boy Scouts have used for a century, including in its co-ed programs that have existed since the 1970s.”
The term “Scout” describes both Boy Scout and Girl Scout programming, the judge wrote.
“The Boy Scouts’ decision to go co-ed, while affecting Girl Scouts operations, does not demonstrate bad faith,” the judge added.
Hellerstein’s decision comes as the Boy Scouts are in bankruptcy proceedings in Delaware that began in February 2020. The Irving, Texas-based organization filed for bankruptcy protection after being named in hundreds of lawsuits brought by individuals claiming to have been assaulted by scout leaders when they were minors.
Messages asking for comments left with lawyers in the case were not immediately returned.
In his decision, Hellerstein wrote that he sided with the Boy Scouts in part because the Girl Scouts could not prove that a risk of confusion was caused by the Boy Scouts’ use of the term “scout”.
He said the Girl Scouts had cited instances of parents confusing the two organizations. But he added that the choice to join one organization or the other is made after several interactions with the organization, by children’s desire to join a group that siblings or friends have joined, or other factors. unrelated to trademarks and brand image.
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