It is not an understatement to say that the Girl Scout Cookie is iconic. But did you know that Girl Scout Cookies are more than just great cookies sold for a month or so every year? The Girl Scout Cookie and what is generally referred to by people in the know (according to the my.girlscouts.org website) as the Girl Scout Cookie Program started in 1917 when girls in Muskogee, OK came up with the idea of selling cookies made at home to fund their projects.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program is more than just great cookies for supporters like us. For over 100 years, the Girl Scout Cookie Program has played a “huge role in transforming girls into G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders) ™.”
It goes without saying that the Girl Scouts have mastered the art of selling cookies (see 100 Years of Girl Scout Cookie History). Just to put the Girl Scouts and its cookies in perspective, according to Fortune magazine, Girl Scout members sell about 200 million boxes of cookies each year for a total of about $800 million. Oreos sold $675 million of cookies in 2018.
So where is the trademark in Girl Scout Cookies?
In the beginning, Girl Scout Cookies were cooked in home ovens by the girl scouts and their sous chefs. However, by the 1930s Girl Scout’s home kitchens could no longer keep up with demand. They astutely (like all great entrepreneurs) decided to up their supply by contracting the production of the iconic Girl Scout Cookies to commercial bakers. After years of production from dozens of commercial bakers, at the end of the 20th century, the Girl Scouts consolidated production of their annual delights with just two bakers. But, you ask, does any of this have to do with trademarks. Well, a lot.
The Girl Scout Movement and branding
Juliette Gordon Low organized the first meeting of what is now known as the Girl Scouts in 1912. And the rest is history that is still being made today. The Girl Scout brand is considered one of the most “valuable” brands in the world.
Historically the unique shade of “Girl Scout green” and the singular Girl Scout Trefoil have come to symbolize the Girl Scout movement. The Girl Scout brand has not been static. The Trefoil has morphed to include heads of girls and not to include heads of girls, but the color has stayed the same. The mark itself – the Trefoil – found on every box of Girl Scout Cookies reigns supreme.
The Girl Scout Cookie trademarks
You’ve likely noticed that some Girl Scout Cookies have different names, despite seemingly being the same cookie. Girl Scout Cookies themselves are produced by two bakeries – ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers. Interbake Foods, LLC, the company that owns ABC Bakers, owns the trademarks for CARAMEL DELITES, PEANUT BUTTER PATTIES, and LEMONADES – so these trademarked cookie names are associated with ABC Bakers. Ferequity, Inc., the IP holding company related to Keebler and Little Brownie Bakers, on the other hand, owns the trademarks for DO-SI-DOS, TAGALONGS, and SAMOAS – so these trademarked cookie names are associated with Little Brownie Bakers.
Here is a breakdown of the different trademarks held by these two bakers:
|Trademark||Reg. Number||Owner||Filing Date||Claimed Use Since||2(f) Claim|
|CARAMEL DELITES||2317949||Interbake Foods, LLC||May 1, 1998||1982|
|DO-SI-DOS||2509548||Ferequity, Inc. (IP holding company related to Keebler)||October 10, 2000||1976|
|TAGALONGS||1817034||Ferequity, Inc.||February 16, 1993||1976|
|SAMOAS||1409681||Ferequity, Inc.||April 11, 1985||1974||yes|
|THIN MINTS||4009288||Girl Scouts of the United States of America||January 10, 2011||1959||yes|
|PEANUT BUTTER PATTIES||2308879||Interbake Foods, LLC||September 17, 1998||1972||yes|
|TREFOILS||4009491||Girl Scouts of the United States of America||January 13, 2011||1977|
|LEMONADES||5478699||Interbake Foods, LLC||April 23, 2017||2006||yes|
Notably, Girl Scouts of the United States of America owns the trademarks for THIN MINTS and TREFOILS. As you may have encountered various THIN MINT products aside from cookies (think ice cream, granola bars, coffee, etc.), it is apparent that Girl Scouts of the United States of America has successfully licensed their THIN MINT trademark.
It is also notable that most of these trademarks were filed many years after the year from which they claim use. For the more generic sounding cookies, like PEANUT BUTTER PATTIES, this may be due to the recognition that trademarks would not be granted to a generic mark. Even for the more descriptive cookie names, like THIN MINTS, in order to be registrable as a trademark there is a requirement that the mark has acquired a secondary meaning in the marketplace. Perhaps starting off in the early 1960s THIN MINTS would have been deemed merely descriptive and therefore unregistrable as a trademark.
Regardless, after years of use in commerce these cookie names have become synonymous with Girl Scout Cookies, and therefore distinguish source as valid trademarks.