Schlafly Beer Trademark App Brings Out All The Egomaniacal Schlaflys In Existence

from the go-schlaf$#@-yourselves dept

I don’t get it, but the never ending list of trademark disputes centered around alcohol just continues to grow. Previously we’ve seen universities going after small brewers over common sports terms, disputes over completely dissimilar lables, and depictions of zombie trademark lawyers doing what zombie trademark lawyers do: kill the living. But this one is a whole new level of egotistical crazy.

For a couple of decades, the St. Louis Brewery Co., co-founded by Tom Schlafly, has been selling Schlafly beer. Phyllis Schlafly, Tom’s Aunt, is a special kind of “conservative commentator” and has spent a couple of decades proudly setting back the women’s rights movement, railing against marriage equality, and insisting that this whole “being Latino” thing in America is just a fad and Republicans need pay no mind. Now the family is entering into a trademark battle in which Phyllis doesn’t think Tom should be able to trademark his beer because, essentially, she’s totally a big deal. Seriously, that’s what her claim amounts to.

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…Phyllis Schlafly, who declined to be interviewed for this story, 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 Saint 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.”

Got that? Phyllis Schlafly is well known, therefore everyone’s going to look at a beer with her last name on it and immediately think of this smiling face.

See the absence of eyeballs? It’s because she doesn’t have a soul.
Now if it seems pretty ridiculous that a brewery that’s been selling a beer under the name of one of its founders for over two decades suddenly has to face a trademark opposition on their brand from an elderly woman going all Mormon and Baptist on its ass, well, you’re not wrong, but that isn’t even the best part. No, the best part is this.

“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. “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.”

Get it yet? Phyllis Schlafly is contesting the trademark application because she doesn’t like her name being associated with a beer brand. However, denying the mark wouldn’t keep Tom Schlafly from using the name on his beer labels, he just wouldn’t be able to register a trademark for it. In other words, the entire ultimate goal driving this opposition won’t be attained by the opposition. Way to go, Phyllis! Other Schlaflys have been coming out of the woodwork since, including Andy Schlafly, Phyllis’ son, and Bruce Schlafly, an orthopedic surgeon and also Phyllis’ son, have since come out in opposition to the mark.

Fortunately, the brewery is likely to win.

Yvette Liebesman, an assistant professor of law at St. Louis University who teaches intellectual property law, said Schlafly beer has a strong case because the company has used the name in commerce for so long.

“The very first time they started selling beer from the tap, that is when they got rights to the mark,” she said. “They certainly have been around long enough to acquire a secondary meaning.” To get the trademark, Schlafly beer must show its goods are not likely to be confused with goods sold by others, Liebesman said. Phyllis Schlafly “would have to prove that there’s a likelihood that people would confuse the two, and I think that’s going to be tough,” Liebesman said.

But, like, Phyllis Schlafly is going to be so upset! Oh well, I’ll just drown my sorrows in some brew. One Schlafly, please!

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Companies: st. louis brewery co.

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Comments on “Schlafly Beer Trademark App Brings Out All The Egomaniacal Schlaflys In Existence”

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Arioch (profile) says:

Wonderful Brewery?

At the risk of sounding patronising, I am someone who appreciates a quality ale. I have sampled many and heard of many more that I should taste, but Schlafly is one of my more unfortunate experiences.
Quite frankly chemically brewed p*ss, is not my beverage of choice.
So Phyllis, don’t sue so much for the trademark.
Sue them for calling their abomination “beer” and attempting to associate you with that

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wonderful Brewery?

Everyone has their own tastes and you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, but I feel the need to post my own experience.
Schlafly brews a hefeweizen on par with what I’ve enjoyed in Germany. I agree with the other comment that the coffee stout is also excellent. The brewery (and restaurant) is a great place to visit and I recommend it to anyone visiting STL.
I wish I could get their beers at home, but sadly their distribution doesn’t quite make it to my area.

Niall (profile) says:

Upsetting, oh dear

Anything that upsets Phyllis and Andy Schaflay is a good thing to me! Anyway, she’s so anti-feminist, she should approve of a good beer for her man while she limps barefoot back into her kitchen to make him another sandwich…

And as for Andy “I’m so kooky I’ll not only invent Conservapedia but ‘re-translate’ the Bible” Schaflay… well, reality was never his strong suit.

Anonymous Coward says:

I actually don’t see the big deal here. Follow me on this one: Schlafly trademarks the name. Someone else in the family starts a business. This trademark would then give the brewery a possible claim to prevent that product from calling it Schlafly, if they think that the name would be confused with their brand. (It doesn’t matter if they’re in the right, once it hits the legal side, it’s about who has the bigger pockets. Right?) I can see why she’d object.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

aren’t trademarks specific to product categories anyway? so if the brewery only has the trademark on Beer (or whatever category beer falls under) they couldn’t stop anyone opening a business using, or even trademarking the same name, unless it sells beer (or equivalent category).

But I think this is about an ultra conservative (and seemingly a very hypocritical one at that) who wishes prohibition back and doesn’t like her name attached to alcoholic beverages.

So, basically fuck her. (not literally, that would just be eww… mindbleach please…)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I haven’t seen the trademark application. How do we know he’s just applying for ‘beer’? He might be applying for all kinds of alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages and everything from keychains over baseball caps to t-shirts and pens.

Merchandising, ya know. I’ve seen lots of trademark applications (on the internet, connected to stories like this, some of them right here on techdirt), that in one fell swoop lay claim to everything (un-)imaginable, even though the company in question originally wanted to sell one specific item/category of items.

You never know what the future holds, so you apply to have the trademark on anything you can remotely see yourself selling with your trademark du jour on it – whether or not you get around to selling everything you planned to is a different question.

Lawrence D?Oliveiro says:

By The Way...

…as an anti-feminist, Mrs Schlafly should know that ?Schlafly? is not her own name but her husband?s name. Her formal name, acknowledging her status as officially the property of her husband, is ?Mrs John Fred Schlafly, Jr?. Otherwise, she could be known informally as just ?Phyllis?, with no last name of her own. Those are her choices.

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