Girl Scout Cookies – Caramel deLites & Peanut Butter Patties vs. Samoas & Tagalongs – What in the TM is going on here?

Girl Scout Cookies

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.

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Kimberly Lowe

Kimberly Lowe

For over 20 years I have lawyered from the trenches with experience based on a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of how both for-profit and nonprofit enterprises operate. I guide entrepreneurs, executive management teams, boards of directors, multigenerational families, shareholders and investors through all aspects of the business life cycle from formation to operation to exit. Read Kim's Bio.

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