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Girl Scouts of the USA, Which Teaches Girls to Be Entrepreneurs, Is Taking on the Boys in a Federal Lawsuit

The lawsuit argues that the Boy Scouts' decision to drop 'boy' from its name and recruit girls erodes the Girl Scouts brand.


The Girl Scouts of the United States of America has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, in protest of the latter group's decision to drop "Boy" from its name and to welcome older girls.

Rick Kern | Getty Images

The suit, filed Tuesday in Manhattan's U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, argues that the Boy Scouts' move could erode the Girl Scouts brand and membership numbers.

Related: The CEO of the Girl Scouts Wants to Turn Today's Cookie Sellers Into Tomorrow's Powerful Female Entrepreneurs

The lawsuit is important not only to the girls involved in Girl Scouts but to families nationwide who welcome that organization's mission to encourage and train their daughters to be entrepreneurs and leaders through such efforts as:

  • Camp CEO, offered by 14 Girl Scout councils nationwide as a summer camp or other program, typically utilizing a Shark Tank format in which 14- to 17-year-olds create and pitch new businesses to veteran adult businesswomen.
  • A system of 29 Girl Scout badges ranging from “Money Counts” and “Business Owner” for girls in elementary school, to “Entrepreneur,” “Financing My Dreams,” “Business Etiquette” and “Social Innovator” for middle and high school girls. 
  • The Girl Scout cookie program, the largest entrepreneurial effort for girls worldwide which, according to its website, promotes such skills as goal-setting, decision-making and money management.

The suit is in reaction to the May announcement of the Boy Scouts, which accepts children 11 to 17 years old, that it would change its name to Scouts BSA next February (2019), and make girls eligible to earn its highest rank, Eagle Scout.

Girl Scouts USA said it would not comment on pending litigation. The Boy Scouts said in a statement it was reviewing the lawsuit, noting that, "We applaud every organization that builds character and leadership in children, including the Girl Scouts of the USA, and believe that there is an opportunity for both organizations to serve girls and boys in our communities."

Girl Scouts said in its complaint that the name change threatens to "marginalize" Girl Scouts activities and has already created confusion. Families, schools and communities nationwide have been told that the organization no longer exists, or has merged with the Boy Scouts, the complaint states. Girl Scouts USA has about 2 million members; Boy Scouts has about 1.8 million, a steep drop from its peak years in the 1970s. 

Related: 8 Lessons This Record-Breaking Girl Scout Can Teach Entrepreneurs

"Only GSUSA has the right to use the Girl Scouts and Scouts trademarks with leadership development services for girls," and the Boy Scouts infringements are "new and uniquely damaging to GSUSA," the complaint said.

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