Phyllis Schlafly made a name for herself in the 1970s as founder and leader of the Eagle Forum, which vehemently opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. Now, she wants to “protect” her name, by preventing a St. Louis-based craft beer-maker from trademarking the name “Schlafly” for its product. Her lawsuit is both annoying and amusing.
The basic story is this: Phyllis Schlafly wants to keep her name from becoming associated with beer-making. In her lawsuit, which she filed with the U.S. Patent Office and Trademark Office, she claims that the word “Schlafly”…
In connection with its usage as a surname… has the connotation of conservative values, which to millions of Americans (such as Baptists and Mormons) means abstinence from alcohol.
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
So, I guess that means that Phyllis Schlafly views herself as a brand.
Why do I care? I suppose that, having lived through her awfulness in the ERA fight, and having watched her continue to position herself as the queen of conservatism, just seeing her picture on the front page of my daily newspaper [St. Louis Post-Dispatch] is enough to raise my blood pressure.
In the 1970s, I somehow “won” a framed picture of Phyllis at an auction that benefited a progressive [we called ourselves liberals then] women’s organization that was fighting against her views. Of course, the portrait was a joke item, and we all got a good laugh from it. I remember continuing the tradition when I offered the Schlafly pinup as a gag [in all senses of the word] gift at a white-elephant party. Since then, the Schlafly brand has faded a bit–or, perhaps it has been overshadowed by even more radical, right-wing women like Michele Bachmann. By comparison, I must say, Schlafly–with her legit law degree–seems like a mental giant.
But I digress. One amusing aspect of Phyllis’ lawsuit is that, contrary to what one might imagine, the beer-maker has not appropriated the Schlafly name out of the blue, which would be a violation of trademark laws. From what I understand, it’s not okay to get a trademark of a famous person’s last name without his/her consent. But in this case, the owner of the beer company is named…wait for it… Tom Schlafly. He is Phyllis’ nephew. She married his uncle.
Oh, and by the way, her lawyer is a Schlafly, too: her son
Also on the save-my-name-from-the-riff-raff bandwagon is Phyllis’ other son, an orthopedic surgeon. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he has said that
Many people in the St. Louis area have the last name and that trademarking the name would cause him harm.
Registration of the mark falsely suggests connection between me and alcoholic beverages sold by Applicant, to the detriment of the reputation of a medical professional such as myself,” Dr. Bruce Schlafly wrote in his notice of opposition in September 2012. In September 2013, the two opposition cases were consolidated by the trademark office.
I just wonder whether the rest of us could–or would–have the resources and the balls to try to prevent businesses, founded by people who share our last names, from trademarking their company names. My birth name is Shur. Do you know how many companies have used my family’s name as an alternative spelling for “sure” in their names? Neither do I. But there are a lot of them. I could spend my entire life trying to keep my birth name from being associated with, for example, an auto repair shop [“Shur-Way Auto Body”] , a grocery store chain [“ShurSave Markets”], or even “Shur-Flo Gutter Protection System.” But I guess I’m just not sufficiently egocentric or protective enough of my image–or wealthy enough–to do it.