Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Boston Brouhaha Between Big Sister and Big Brothers Big Sisters

The Boston Globe ran a story today (link here) about a trademark infringement lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on December 28, 2007, by the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston (“Big Sister”) against Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay (“Big Brothers”). See Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, Inc. v. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, Inc., Case No. 07-CV-12396 (D. Mass).

Big Brothers, founded in 1949 to mentor Boston-area boys, made the decision last year to add "Big Sisters" to its name even though it had been providing services to girls since 1998. Big Sister was founded in 1951 and provides support services solely to young girls in the Boston area.

Deborah Re, the chief execute of Big Sister, said the lawsuit was filed after Big Brothers denied its request to remove "Big Sisters" from its name in the Boston area. Re maintains that Big Brothers’ use of “Big Sisters” in its name has caused immediate confusion and has hurt Big Sister’s fundraising efforts.

John B. Pearson, president and chief executive of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, questions Re’s claims that the name change has hurt Big Sister's fund-raising efforts, noting that Big Sister raised substantially more at its annual fundraiser this year than the prior year.

Big Sister is one of only two remaining Big Sister organizations still in existence in the U.S. – the other one is in Rhode Island. The other Big Sister chapters apparently have merged with the Big Brothers organization. Pearson has hopes that the two organizations will merge and combine their efforts for the benefit both boys and girls. Re, however, opposes such a merger and believes Big Sister should remain focused exclusively on the needs of girls.

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