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Can't We All Just Get Along | Lawsuits in the Craft Brewing Industry

Posted by Tapped Life on

In the last few years there have been plenty of stories that got media attention concerning lawsuits between breweries. Most of these lawsuits had to do with copyright laws. Who owns what name to which beer, who’s trademarked logo was being infringed upon, whose world-renowned fancy coffee drink was obviously being confused with a beer being brewed by a microbrewery in a small, small town in Missouri. Can't we all just get along | lawsuits in the craft brewing industry.

These things generally get attention because the craft brew industry is supposed to be full of bromance: guys with beards slapping one another on the back for a beer well brewed. There isn’t supposed to be any animosity. This is all-for-one and one-for-all against the Big Breweries. If there’s infighting, then the industry loses, because it suddenly becomes about business and making money, not about making beer.

This is the kind of bad behavior reserved for cut-throat corporations in billion-dollar-a-year industries*, or feuding families during the holidays. Which, ironically, is the next big craft beer lawsuit. That’s right: a family has entered the arena. The Schlafly’s, of The Saint Louis Brewery fame, are embroiled in a trademark dispute over their own name. 

Tom Schlafly, co-founder and Chairman of The Saint Louis Brewery, better known as Schlafly, is in trouble with his aunt. His aunt is Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative activist, author and lecturer. Tom has decided to trademark the name Schlafly because he’s been using it to sell beer since 1991. Phyllis is worried that this trademark will not sit well with the moral compass identity she has worked so hard to brand herself as. From her Notice of Opposition .

“The ‘consumption of alcohol is considered immoral by millions of Americans, including many of the subscribers to my...monthly newsletter and consumers of my radio shows, books, and other products, including Baptists and Mormons.’"

In case you were looking for the definition of Immoral [From]: Not conforming to the patterns of conduct usually accepted or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics.

It’s hard to tell if Phyllis believes that consuming alcohol is unprincipled and therefore a scourge on the family name, or if she is worried that she just won’t be able to make money off of Baptists and Mormons any longer if they think she’s involved in the craft beer industry. The latter sounds way more unsavory than being associated with beer.

Tom’s been using the name Schlafly on his beer for over 20 years. If there was going to be a backlash, surely it would have already happened. I think the craft beer industry should be worried about being affiliated with Phyllis. Perhaps there should be a cease and desist letter sent to her.

*Please note, craft beer is now a billion dollar a year industry. As more brewers break into the industry, we’re going to see more and more of this kind of thing.

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