ST. LOUIS – To many older Americans, the Schlafly name is most closely associated with Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative commentator known for her campaign to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.
A younger generation knows Schlafly as the brand of an up-and-coming St. Louis brewery co-founded by Schlafly’s nephew.
Now the federal agency that oversees trademarks is being asked to wade into a dispute within the prominent family and decide whether Schlafly is primarily a last name or a commercial brand that deserves legal protection.
With a growing national profile and new owners who might want to expand, the brewery started by Tom Schlafly more than 20 years ago seeks a trademark giving it the exclusive right to use the Schlafly name to sell craft beer.
But Phyllis Schlafly has asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to deny the request, lest any implied association with beer sully her 60-year political career.
There are tens of millions of Americans who oppose alcohol, said Andrew Schlafly, a New Jersey lawyer who represents his mother in the matter. Certainly, alcohol has a connotation that is the opposite of conservative values.
Phyllis Schlafly, now 89, lives in a St. Louis suburb and continues to lead the Eagle Forum, the group she created to prevent ratification of the proposed constitutional amendment on women’s rights. These days, the forum fights issues such as same-sex marriage and federal education standards.
Her official biography touts Schlafly as a leader of the pro-family movement and successful opponent of the radical feminist movement. Her daily, syndicated radio commentaries are heard on more than 500 stations. She’s written 20 books and continues to produce a monthly newsletter and a syndicated newspaper column.
Schlafly, who is not involved in the beer company, did not respond to several telephone messages seeking comment. Andrew Schlafly said his mother – who, like her beer-making nephew, is a lawyer – was speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week and was not available for an interview. She is a Schlafly by marriage, not birth: Her late husband was a brother of Tom Schlafly’s father.
Andrew Schlafly has filed his own papers opposing the trademark. So has brother Bruce, an orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis. Each petition asserts that the word Schlafly, when standing alone, has no usage or meaning other than as a surname.
Phyllis Schlafly’s petition says supporters commonly assume she’s connected to the beer company. Bruce Schlafly says his patients make the same mistake.
Nearly 18 months after Phyllis Schlafly filed her complaint, settlement talks continue. Schlafly beer is brewed in downtown St. Louis and in suburban Maplewood by St. Louis Brewery Inc. The company produced 56,000 barrels of beer in 2013, making it the 44th-largest craft brewery in the country, according to industry tallies.
Opposition to the trademark may not be limited to members of Schlafly family. Anheuser-Busch has been given an extension through early April to file its own protest. Spokeswoman Lisa Weser said the makers of Budweiser have yet to decide on the issue but are keeping their options open.
As the largest St. Louis brewery with more than 150 years of heritage in the city, we believe The Saint Louis Brewery’ should not be trademarked by any one brewer, she said in a written statement.