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Did You Know That The Boy Scouts Of America Have The Exclusive Right To The Trademark Of The Word Scouts

Did You Know that the Boy Scouts of America Have the Exclusive Right to the Trademark of the Word “Scouts”?



02 June 20187 min read

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Did You Know that the Boy Scouts of America Have the Exclusive Right to the Trademark of the Word “Scouts”?

Renaming of Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA

Earlier this month the Boy Scouts of America were in the news when they announced that their flagship program, Boy Scouts, would be renamed to Scouts BSA early next year. This name change was made to reflect the organization’s previously announced decision to allow girls to enter the program and become Scouts.

In 1916, Congress passed a federal statute that incorporated the Boy Scouts of America and in doing so granted them the “exclusive right to use emblems and badges, descriptive or designating marks.” In 1998, under 36 U.S.C. § 30905, Congress amended the BSA incorporation statute so that it now reads that BSA “has the exclusive right to use emblems, badges, descriptive or designating marks, and words or phrases the corporation adopts.” Since its incorporation in 1916, the BSA has interpreted the Congressional Statute to mean that they have exclusive control over the word “scouts”. 

Due to the special permission granted by Congress and BSA’s interpretation of the statute’s meaning, the organization has been very willing to use the legal system to protect their trademarks.

One of the first instances of the Boy Scouts suing over the term “scouts” was in the 1920’s when they sued the Girl Scouts for use of the term. In response to the lawsuit, the Girl Scouts were adamant that girls should be on equal footing with boys and therefore should retain the right to use the term “scouts”. 

Obviously, the Girl Scouts ended up winning the argument but the Boy Scouts of America continued to protect their use of the phrase going forward. In 1960, BSA sued the “Safety Scouts” over trademark infringement and won. Girl Scouts of U.S. of Am. V. Hollingsworth, 188 F. Supp. 707 (E.D.N.Y. 1960). The BSA again challenged another youth organization in 2008 in the unpublished case of Wrenn v. BSA, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91913 (N.D. Cal. 2008).

Recent Incident of Trademark Enforcement

In 2013 there was another incident in which the BSA used their legal status to stop a youth organization from using the phrase “scout”. Hacker Scouts, a child education group that focuses on STEM education, received a cease and desist letter from the BSA. The BSA demanded that Hacker Scouts change its name or face legal ramifications. In response the director of Hacker Scouts decided to change the programs name to Curiosity Hacked so as to avoid the wrath of the BSA. This story went viral and caught the attention of some online legal blogs who started referring to BSA as a trademark bully.


The Boy Scouts of America are known for their strict protection of the word “scouts” and have used legal means to enforce their trademark. With the recent changes allowing girls to join, it remains to be seen if their legal stance will change. However, the Scouts BSA organization provides an opportunity for families to learn valuable scouting skills and ideals.

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