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Federal appeals court sides with brewery in trademark dispute

Many California drinkers enjoy craft beers, and the breweries that produce them place great value on their brand names and trademarks. Saint Louis Brewery LLC had to go to court to defend its intention to trademark the surname Schlafly. The legal dispute progressed to a federal appeals court, where a 3-0 decision affirmed the company's right to the trademark. One of the judges said that the name had developed a secondary meaning as a beer brand beyond its origin as a surname.

Thomas Schlafly, who co-founded the company that had been selling beer with the Schlafly name on it since 1991, applied for a trademark on the Schlafly name in 2011. This action triggered a lawsuit from his aunt and cousin who did not want their name associated with alcohol. The late Phyllis Schlafly and her son sought to block the trademark on the basis that a surname cannot ordinarily be subject to trademark protection. Her son announced plans to advance the case to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Thomas Schlafly, who serves as the brewing company's chairman, said that the appeals court decision relieved him. He had not expected that his relatives would oppose what he considered a routine trademark action.

Unforeseen factors could complicate the process of pursuing a trademark or defending one from infringement or challenges. Another entity might have a similar name or logo and contest a company's right to a trademark. Legal representation could prepare a person to defend intellectual property through negotiation, arbitration or business litigation.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Brewery Defeats Trademark Complaint by Conservative Icon Schlafly's Heirs", Jonathan Stempel, Nov. 27, 2018

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