Phyllis Schlafly’s Family Beer Feud
One of the archconservative’s last battles was with her nephew over use of the family’s name.
Old-timey bartender wisdom would tell you never to speak ill of the dead.
No doubt St. Louis beer drinkers are struggling to abide by that advice. This week, archconservative Phyllis Schlafly, who founded the Eagle Forum, helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, and was an ardent Trump supporter, passed away at 92. So what does she have to do with beer?
A couple of years ago, she contested her nephew’s attempt to trademark their family name for his popular Missouri brewery. Tom Schlafly first cofounded the brewery back in 1991 and now, according to trademark filings, sells nearly 20 million bottles of beer a year. The company also says its Tap Room was also the first brewpub in Missouri since Prohibition.
In addition to being a self-made political pundit, Phyllis was an avowed teetotaler. In December 1975, her husband, Fred Schlafly, told The New York Times the secret to their marriage was: “We avoid many of the things that often hurt a marriage, such as alcohol and cigarettes. And we stick to foods that are not over refined.”
According to the opposition papers she filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), her problem with the proposed trademark was because the family name “has the connotation of conservative values, which to millions of Americans (such as Baptists and Mormons) means abstinence from alcohol.” And more important to her and her reputation, “An average consumer in Saint Louis and elsewhere would think that ‘Schlafly’ is a surname associated with me, and thus the registration of this name as a trademark by Applicant should be denied.” Even worse, “Trademark registration of my surname for the sale or advertisement of alcoholic beverages, as Applicant seeks, could be harmful to my conservative activities.” Furthermore, she insisted that “Consumers nationwide associate the word “Schlafly” more with me than with Applicant.”
Her years of grassroots campaigning and political stunts were no doubt a solid warm-up for the beer war, which got considerable press with stories in several national publications. Tom proceeded with caution. “She has fans and critics,” he told USA Today. “I want to sell to both of them. The last thing I want to do is antagonize her followers because I hope they drink Schlafly beer, too.”
It took several years for the USPTO to sort out the family feud and finally rule in his favor. “She pleaded that she has used the name Schlafly in the issuance of newsletters, radio commentaries, and books; that the consumption of alcohol is considered immoral by many of her subscribers; and that Applicant’s registration of the mark could be harmful to her conservative activities,” said the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s decision last month. “None of this was proven.”
Phyllis Schlafly’s son, Andy, who was also her attorney, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch they were contemplating appealing the ruling. But arguably the most interesting twist? Just a few weeks after the Board’s decision, Phyllis decided to trademark her own name.
It looks as though she might have learned a thing or two from her beer-making nephew.