By Lisa Brown, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS — For decades, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly has voiced her opposition to a wide variety of social and political issues, from the Equal Rights Amendment to same-sex marriage.
But her latest fight hits closer to home.
Phyllis Schlafly is opposing a federal trademark for the name “Schlafly” for beer made by a St. Louis craft brewery co-founded by her nephew, Tom Schlafly.
The Schlafly beer maker applied for the trademark on the use of the brand name in 2011; Phyllis Schlafly filed a notice of opposition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in September 2012. Settlement talks have failed to produce a resolution, and neither side appears ready to back down.
Schlafly beer is made in St. Louis and in Maplewood, Mo., by The St. Louis Brewery Co., a homegrown craft brewery founded in 1991. Its Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout and other beers can now be found in bars as far as New York and the nation’s capital, as its customer base has grown far beyond its St. Louis roots.
The trademark case poses no threat to the sale of Schlafly-branded beer, according to Tom Schlafly, who is the brewery’s largest individual shareholder.
“The full federal trademark has nothing to do with our right to sell beer, and no one is contesting our right to do that,” Tom Schlafly said.
But unresolved is whether it will be able to trademark the brand that has helped the company grow to be one of the largest craft breweries in the country. The brewery had filed the trademark to ensure other brewers can’t use the name.
“We sell the equivalent of 20 million bottles of beer a year, and we want to keep someone else from selling beer and calling it Schlafly,” he said.
Tom Schlafly is a nephew to Phyllis Schlafly by marriage — she married his uncle, the late John Fred Schlafly — but she has no connection to the brewery and never has. The question of whether Phyllis Schlafly has ties to the brewery comes up, however, especially in new markets outside of St. Louis.
Both Schlaflys are well known in St. Louis and beyond. Tom Schlafly, a partner at law firm Thompson Coburn, serves on the St. Louis Public Library board, is a St. Louis Art Museum trustee and a commentator on St. Louis Public Radio. His mother was Adelaide Mahaffey Schlafly, a well-known civil rights activist who died in 2012.
Phyllis Schlafly, also an attorney, is a nationally known conservative activist who lives in Ladue, MO. In 1972, she founded the Eagle Forum, which helped defeat the ERA.
Most recently, the forum has opposed gay marriage, gory video games, and the Common Core national teaching standard.
Her political views have made her a polarizing figure. When her alma mater, Washington University, gave her an honorary doctorate in 2008, some students and faculty turned their backs to her in a silent protest during her speech.
Phyllis Schlafly, who declined to be interviewed for this report, argues that the word Schlafly has no usage or meaning other than as a last name, and she lays claim to it.
“In connection with its usage as a surname, it has the connotation of conservative values, which to millions of Americans (such as Baptists and Mormons) means abstinence from alcohol,” her filing with the trademark office states. “An average consumer in St. Louis and elsewhere would think ‘Schlafly’ is a surname associated with me, and thus the registration of this name as a trademark by applicant should be denied.”
Andy Schlafly, a New Jersey attorney who grew up in the St. Louis area, is representing his mother in the trademark case. Her primary opposition to the trademark is less about beer and more about the use of a name that she is closely associated with, Andy Schlafly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“This company is attempting to get a trademark over the name Schlafly, and we feel that’s overreaching,” Andy Schlafly said. “It’s not allowed by applicable law to get a trademark of a famous person’s last name without her consent, and she does not consent.”
Beer isn’t central to his mother’s opposition. “Schlafly beer, we do not have an objection to. It’s the name by itself that’s the issue,” he said.