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Girls vs. Boys

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Scouts, that is. In court. No, seriously.

It’s a battle of the sexes—but this time, it’s about inclusion instead of exclusion. In an effort to make involve all genders, The Boy Scouts of America is opening up their scouting program to girls, much to the chagrin of their formerly-friendly counterpart, the Girl Scouts.

What happened:

In 2017, BSA announced that they would be allowing girls to become members of the Cub Scouts, ages 7-10, for the first time in its 107-year existence. The following year, BSA announced they would be making girls eligible to earn their highest rank, Eagle Scout. The move was met with immediate backlash from Girl Scouts (GSUSA) in a post on their blog the same day of the announcement. GSUSA took to the offensive claiming to be “girl leadership experts” and touted the benefits of a “single gender environment.” 

Why is this a problem?

A dispute between the feuding entities landed in a Manhattan court on November 6th, 2018. The issue at hand is a trademark dispute over the use of the term “scout.”

The complaint alleges that BSA does not have the right to use the word “scout” by itself in their rebranding efforts planned for 2019.  Furthermore, GSUSA alleges that BSA’s rebranding efforts have damaged their brand by marginalizing their identity and confusing potential members. “We did what any brand, company, corporation, or organization would do to protect its intellectual property, the value of its brand in the marketplace, and to defend its good name,” the Girl Scouts said in a statement, according to Reuters.

There would be significant damage to GSUSA’s membership, experts explained in a recent article in The Atlantic. However, the case could still cause problems for BSA should it reach court and a judgment is levied against them. Both organizations are huge in terms of assets and revenue. GSUSA sells nearly 200 million boxes of cookies per year, generating three quarters of a billion dollars in revenue from the sales. And BSA is #45 on Forbes’ list of the U.S.’s 100 largest charities, generating over $800 million in revenue. Clearly, there is a lot at stake.

Are they covered?

Not for Profit Directors and Officers Liability Insurance (D&O) would most likely cover BSA for this type of a claim. However, it is important that companies understand the fine print that is in their policy. Coverage would be provided for legal defense fees and any judgements against them.

We’ll have to wait and see how this one plays out, but BSA doesn’t seem to plan on yielding in their rebranding efforts. In a statement in response to the suite, BSA said, “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.”

Dominic Piccirillo