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.
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 two decades ago is seeking a trademark that would give it the exclusive right to use the Schlafly name to sell craft beer.
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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, 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 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.
Phyllis Schlafly, who is not involved in the beer company, did not respond to several telephone messages seeking comment. 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. Dr. Bruce Schlafly says his patients make the same mistake.
Nearly 18 months after Phyllis Schlafly filed her complaint, settlement talks continue. The brewery filed its application in 2011, not long before Schlafly and his partner, Dan Kopman, sold a majority of the brewery to Sage Capital, a private-equity firm.
“I would like to get this settled and move on with selling beer,” said Tom Schlafly, who remains the company’s largest shareholder and its board chairman.
Schlafly beer is brewed in downtown St. Louis and in suburban Maplewood by St. Louis Brewery. The company produced 56,000 barrels of beer in 2013, making it the 44th largest craft brewery in the country, according to industry tallies.
As the company explores entry into new markets, the new ownership group decided to take steps to protect its brand.
“If we’re going to make a significant investment and build the brewery, we want to add this,” Tom Schlafly said in an interview. “The bigger you are, the more likely you are to have other people copy you.”
Tom Schlafly said the flap has not spilled over into a full-blown family feud and that he remains friendly with his aunt and cousins, whom he typically sees once or twice a year at holiday gatherings or weddings.