One of the highlights of 2019 is sure to be The Rolling Stones tour of the United States, aka No Filter Tour. Beginning in Miami in April, the group that has long been called The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World will play 15 concerts, six of them in markets where Schlafly Beer is sold year round (plus a few other markets in Florida, Arizona and California, where our beer has been available on a limited basis at Total Wine & More
Alert readers (ARs) of a certain age may recall the first American tour of The Rolling Stones in 1964, 27 years before The Schlafly Tap Room opened in 1991. As long as Schlafly has been around, The Rolling Stones have been touring more than twice as long. ARs who are exceptionally alert may even recall the first song by The Stones to reach number one in the U.S: “It’s All Over Now,” which made it to the top spot in July of 1964.
Early in their careers The Stones acknowledged their indebtedness to African-American musicians, including Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Solomon Burke. In 1965 they appeared on ABC’s Shindig and invited the legendary bluesman Howlin’ Wolf, aka Chester Arthur Burnett, to perform with them. Many ARs will appreciate the irony that it took a British band to introduce a giant in the world of blues, a quintessentially American genre, to an American audience on American TV. It was on the same show that The Stones first performed their iconic anthem “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The song had been recorded previously, but not yet released.
Late in 1964, after The Stones had completed their first American tour but before they appeared on Shindig, another African-American artist named Shirley Ellis had a hit single called “The Name Game.” Fifty-four years later this would be an appropriate description of a legal morass that has had Schlafly tied up in frivolous litigation since 2012, when Barack Obama was still in his first term as president. I’m referring, of course, to the challenge raised by the late Phyllis Schlafly and some of her sons (in legal parlance “The Opposers”) to what should have been a routine registration of the name Schlafly as a trademark with respect to beer.
As some ARs will recall, this topic was discussed briefly in this column last month. Because the decision by The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was handed down shortly before the deadline for the December column, there wasn’t time to write the complete story. Granted, it would be extremely difficult to summarize six and half years of legal proceedings and thousands of pages of pleadings, depositions, filings, briefs etc. etc in a few paragraphs. Nevertheless, it’s worth reminding loyal ARs of some of the highlights of this saga.
For the record, I have had the name Schlafly longer than any of the opposers. This inconvenient truth did not stop The Opposers from claiming that my name referred “uniquely and unmistakably” to Phyllis Schlafly, who had married into the family and changed her name from Stewart to Schlafly one year after the latter name was already on my birth certificate. When we pointed out that the name couldn’t possibly refer uniquely and unmistakably to Phyllis, given that millions of servings of Schlafly were purchased every year in over 11,000 venues around the country, The Opposers dismissed these numbers as “paltry.” The Opposers went on to contend that my decision to put my own name on the label of a product I was proud to sell was in fact an effort to capitalize on the fame of Phyllis Schlafly. At one point the lawyer for The Opposers compared my using my own name (allegedly to capitalize on Phyllis’s fame) to another brewery’s attempt to capitalize on the fame of Samuel Adams. Seriously.
Again for the record, from 1991 until 2012 Phyllis Schlafly and her sons were completely irrelevant to Schlafly Beer. They had nothing to do with our business and I never sought to associate our business with any of them in any way. It was only when The Opposers launched their frivolous campaign to block the registration of our trademark that any of them became at all relevant…and not in a salutary way.
In 2016 The Opposers contended that Phyllis Schlafly’s image was tarnished by having the name Schlafly on bottles of beer sold in casinos and strip clubs (an infinitesimally small percentage of our sales). At the same time the brief containing this argument was filed, Phyllis Schlafly publicly endorsed a presidential candidate whose real estate empire had included multiple casinos; who had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money to a porn star and a Playboy centerfold model to cover up extra-marital affairs; and who had boasted in a TV interview of his ability to woo women by grabbing them by their private parts. Apparently, owning casinos and paying hush money to a porn star who had danced in strip clubs all over the country were important qualifications for occupying The Oval Office, while selling a few hundred bottles of beer to such establishments—these numbers really are “paltry”—was an indelible stain on the family name.
Finally for the record, despite the claim by the lawyer for The Opposers that he plans to take this case to The Supreme Court of The United States, in the words of The Rolling Stones back in 1964, “It’s all over now.” Phyllis Schlafly is once again as irrelevant to our business, as she was from 1991 until 2012. As one unnamed AR put it, Schlafly has “Great taste, less Phyllis.”
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery