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Family of ‘conservative icon’ Schlafly must share name with beer

Phyllis Schlafly

The family of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly has failed to stop a beer company from registering the Schlafly name as a trademark.

Saint Louis Brewery LLC, which was founded in 1989 by Ms. Schlafly’s nephew, Thomas, and Daniel Kopman, sells 60 types of beer with the Schlafly mark in 15 states, according to the Monday’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington D.C. in Bruce S. Schlafly, Phyllis Schlafly Revocable Trust et al. v. Saint Louis Brewery LLC.

The brewery applied for trademark registration for “Schlafly” for use with various types of beer in 2011. It already had trademark registrations for other logo marks that include the Schlafly name, according to the ruling.

Ms. Schlafly, who died in September, and her son, Bruce, objected. The Schlafly family had argued that Ms. Schlafly was a “conservative icon” and “the surname Schlafly is primarily associated in the minds of the public with Phyllis Schlafly and the traditional values that she presented.”

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which is part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, ruled in the brewery’s favor. The family appealed, arguing that the board had improperly accepted that the mark had acquired a secondary meaning.

A three-judge appeals court panel unanimously affirmed the board’s ruling. The Lanham Act permits registration of marks that have become distinctive by their use in commerce, the ruling said.

The brewery has submitted “evidence of the commercial success of SCHLAFLY-branded beer through sales at restaurants and large retailers, evidence of sales of over 75 million servings of Schlafly-branded beer between 2009 and 2014, and media coverage in local and national media,” the ruling said.

“No law or precedent suggests that surnames cannot be registered as trademarks if they have acquired distinctiveness in trademark use,” said the ruling , in affirming the board’s decision.

Left unaddressed was the matter of what beer was served at the family’s Thanksgiving feast last week.

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