daan-weijers-668960-unsplashFor those who follow the news, the rise in dissent and argument in public discourse is inexorably linked to the growing split between two bodies, once united in a common goal but now more divided than they've ever been. Heated rhetoric flies back and forth between the two parties and their designated representatives, with lines drawn in the sand and allegiances publicly declared. Neutral onlookers and the nation as a whole are left to wonder if there is any way to save the union and the higher ideals it is meant to represent.

I am of course talking about the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts, who are currently locked in a trademark battle.

The Girl Scouts filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts over the use of the word "scout". The issue arises from the recent change to Boy Scout policy that now allows girls to join its Cub Scout program. To reflect that change, the Boy Scouts had begun using the term "scouts" in advertising, and had changed the organization name from Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA to reflect the new inclusivity.

The Girl Scouts claim that the Boy Scouts don't hold the right to use the term "scouts" solely, and allege that the changes in name and branding will serve to confuse the market and diminish their organization, causing consumers to consider the new Scouts BSA as the primary scouting organization. The matter could already be considered confusing enough, as both brands have long used the term "scouts" in reference to their own members, with the issue coming to the fore now that there are girls in what was once the Boy Scouts.

Setting aside the squeamishness of internecine squabbles between two organizations we would hope would be above it, there is the legitimate question of whether the Boy Scout rebranding was in fact meant to marginalize the Girl Scouts by confusing potential members into believing the organizations had merged, as the plaintiff alleges. Indeed, the Girl Scouts filing cites specific instances where young girls and their families had been led to believe that the two organizations had combined into one.

There are also practical concerns that would lead some to think of the name change as a cynical move. Recent controversy over Boy Scout policies on acceptance have seen a decline in membership numbers, and the move to accept girls can be seen as both a progressive step towards greater inclusion and a necessary move to boost membership.

Whatever the cause or outcome, we can hope that litigiousness doesn't become a foundational principle for scouts of any stripe.

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