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Is the word Scout or Scouts Copyrighted or Trademarked?

Date: 23 Dec 1998

The BSA "owns" the names "Boy Scouts of America", "Scout", "Boy Scouting", and "Scouting", as used within the United States. This is granted by a FEDERAL CHARTER from our Congress, and under this charter, the Government of the United States granted the organization called corporately "Boy Scouts of America" the sole and exclusive right to have and to use, in carrying out its purposes, all emblems and badges, descriptive or designating marks, and words or phrases now or heretofore used by the Boy Scouts of America in carrying out its program.

The GSUSA also holds a federal charter on its title.

According to a House of Representatives report accompanying the Bill incorporating the Boy Scouts: "If any boy can secure these badges without meeting the required test the badges will soon be meaningless and one of the leading features of the Scout program will be lost. Likewise with the uniform which designates the Scout. At the present time this is protected by the use of insignia - a seal woven or stamped into the cloth. All of these various badges and insignia are at present protected by the patent laws but under the patent laws such protection is available for a limited period only. The passing by Congress of this bill will, it is believed, provide the organization with protection for its distinctive insignia, the integrity of which is essential to the maintenance of the movement, and protect it from those who are seeking to profit by the good repute and high standing and popularity of the Scout movement by imitating it in name alone."

Both BSA and GSUSA have a large number of registered trademarks for different aspects of the Scouting program. All printed material, such as the Handbook, is protected by copyright.

The Congress has also granted federal charters to:

  • The American Red Cross (which keeps other organizations and programs from using "Red Cross" and the emblematic red cross; the BSA was caught in this and when the ARC threatened to sue the BSA over this, the BSA changed their First Aid Merit badge to a GREEN CROSS with a RED background. This is also why the Safety Merit Badge has a WHITE CROSS (instead of "Green Cross for Safety{tm}", which is a registered trademark of the National Safety Council) with a GREEN background)
  • The American Legion (which has trademarked the word "Legionnaire" as used in the United States, to refer to members of their organization; of course, those everywhere in the world using the word "Legionnaire" may be referring to the French Foreign Legion or to the American Legion or several other "legions".)

The federal charter is little more than a trademark law. Most organizations hold trademarks and to do so, they get laws passed on either the State or Federal level. Some of these organizations discriminate in religious afiliation or gender.

Other congressional charters have gone to:

  • The Girl Scouts
  • Future Farmers of America
  • The Red Cross
  • Pershing Hall Memorial Fund
  • The Foundation of the Federal Bar Association
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • Big Brothers - Big Sisters of America
  • Jewish War Veterans, U.S.A., National Memorial, Inc.
  • Blue Star Mothers of America
  • National Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic
  • Little League Baseball, Inc.
  • Gold Star Wives of America
  • National Society, Daughters of the American Colonists
  • General Federation of Women's Clubs
and many more...

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