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US Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts in escalating recruitment war

Published:Saturday | December 26, 2020 | 3:22 PMAssociated Press
In this June 18, 2018, AP file photo, patches cover the back of a Girl Scout's vest at a demonstration of some of their activities in Seattle. Girl Scouts of the United States of America claim the century-old organisation is in a "highly damaging" recruitment war with Boy Scouts of America, after the latter group opened its core services to girls, leading to marketplace confusion and some girls unwittingly joining the Boy Scouts.

The Girl Scouts are in a “highly damaging” recruitment war with the Boy Scouts, after the latter opened its core services to girls, leading to marketplace confusion and some girls unwittingly joining the Boy Scouts.

The claim was made in papers filed by lawyers for the century-old Girl Scouts in a federal court.

The competition, more conjecture than reality two years ago, has intensified, as the Boy Scouts of America, which insists recruits pledge to be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous and kind,” has unfairly recruited girls lately, according to claims in legal briefs filed on behalf of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

The lawyers filed papers in Manhattan federal court Thursday to repel an effort by the Boy Scouts to toss out before trial a trademark infringement lawsuit the Girl Scouts filed in 2018.

Last month, lawyers for the Boy Scouts asked a judge to reject claims that the Boy Scouts cannot use “scouts” and “scouting” in its recruitment of girls without infringing trademarks.

It called the lawsuit “utterly merit-less.”

Messages seeking comment on the latest filing by Girl Scouts were sent today to lawyers for the Boy Scouts.

In its filing, the Girl Scouts said the Boy Scouts’ marketing of expanded services for girls was “extraordinary and highly damaging to Girl Scouts” and had set off an “explosion of confusion.”

“As a result of Boy Scouts’ infringement, parents have mistakenly enrolled their daughters in Boy Scouts thinking it was Girl Scouts,” the lawyers said, adding that this never occurred before 2018.

Proof of confusion

The Girls Scouts said they can prove there are “rampant instances of confusion and mistaken instances of association between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts” after the Boy Scouts targeted girls and their parents with marketing and recruiting communications in ways it never has before.

“The parties’ programmes, which have many similarities, are now directly competitive,” the Girls Scouts maintained.

The organisation cited proof from a narrow subset of documents turned over by 19 of 250 local Boy Scout councils, including evidence that registration fees sometimes were returned to parents, who mistakenly thought they registered girls for the Girl Scouts.

It said repeated instances of confusion and interference at the local level by the Boy Scouts was a tiny fraction of what was occurring nationwide.

Each of dozens of times the Girl Scouts complained about unfair marketing, the Boy Scouts responded by blaming individuals, churches or others for what they said was an isolated incident, the lawyers said.

“According to Boy Scouts, blame for the rampant marketplace confusion lies at everyone’s feet but its own,” they wrote.

Both the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, like other major youth organisations, have seen declines in membership in recent years as competition grew pre-pandemic from sports leagues and busy family schedules.

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