Boy Scouts fighting California business over trademark

New California businesses often begin operations with limited funds. Most money is used to establish and grow the company. Small business owners often don’t budget legal expenses to include an all-out intellectual property war.

Hacker Scouts in Oakland has been in operation for about a year and already faces a huge legal challenge. The organization promotes youth education in the advanced fields of technology, science and engineering. Hacker Scouts officials say the non-profit youth services they offer are nothing like the well-known Boy Scouts of America, potential plaintiffs in a trademark infringement lawsuit.

The Boys Scouts sent a letter to the Oakland organization ordering it to change its name. The duplicate use of the word “scouts” is the problem. Hacker Scouts contends the Boy Scouts cannot place a restriction on a word that has been in existence longer than the Boy Scouts. Legal observers say Hacker Scouts might be disappointed if the case goes before a judge.

The Boy Scouts asserts that the powerhouse youth group not only owns the “scouts” trademark but has special congressional and presidential approval to do so. A federal charter issued by President Woodrow Wilson nearly a century ago granted the Boy Scouts the “exclusive right” to the scout trademark as a branding device.

Hacker Scouts officials do not believe the organization duplicates what the Boy Scouts do. What may be more important legally is whether the public believes Hacker is linked to the larger, long-established scouting group. With a federal charter on the Boy Scouts side, an expensive uphill battle may be brewing for the well-meaning California organization.

A prolonged legal battle could sap funding from the fledgling organization’s coffers. Trademark infringement is frequently an ongoing issue for all businesses. A cost-effective way to launch a new company is to create an unshakeable foundation that includes intellectual property due diligence.

Source:, “Boy Scouts threaten to sue Oakland-based Hacker Scouts over its name” Paul T. Rosynsky, Aug. 23, 2013