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Slyman v. Slyman: Appliance Store Family Sues Each Other Over Trademark

Categories: Bidness

slyman bros 1.jpg
Company founders Bob and Harry Slyman in an early TV ad.
Updated with comment from Tony Slyman of Appliance Discounters.

Slyman. The name has been synonymous with household appliances in St. Louis ever since brothers Bob and Harry Slyman aired a commercial of themselves seated on top of the Gateway Arch.

"Thanks for making us tops in town," the jovial brothers crowed in the 1972 advertisement that took liberal use of the then cutting-edge, green-screen technology.

Four decades later the Slyman Brothers appliance stores continue to operate with three St. Louis locations, though the family-owned business recently got some unexpected competition from within its own clan.

In a lawsuit filed this year in St. Louis Circuit Court, Slyman Brothers alleges that the local chain Appliance Discounters is infringing on its trademark by using the name Slyman in advertisements and store signage.

Appliance Discounters opened in 2009 and, according to its website, now has locations in Webster Groves, St. Charles, Ballwin and Arnold. Its owners are Anthony Slyman and his sister, Denise Bradley. Both are children of Slyman Brothers' founder, Bob Slyman, and worked for the family business prior to venturing out on their own.

In the lawsuit, Slyman Brothers accuses Appliance Discounters of affiliating itself with "Slyman Brothers" in radio advertisements and its website and using the name Slyman in other marketing.

Per the petition: "Plaintiffs receive regular and repeated contacts from the relevant purchasing public depicting the confusion created by the references and uses defendant has made of the Slyman trademarks, directly inquiring into the affiliation or relationship between Slyman Brothers and Appliance Discounters, believing that Slyman Brothers has opened a new 'discount' store."

The suit seeks a permanent injunction that would prohibit Appliance Discounters from advertising, associating or referencing the term Slyman or Slyman Brothers.

In a statement e-mailed to Daily RFT, the plaintiffs state:

"Slyman Brothers has been in business for more than 45 years, and we have worked very hard to establish our business name, our reputation, and our client base. Our family has made many sacrifices to get to where we are now. We only want to protect our clients and our business. The name "Slyman" is associated with great appliances, great customer service, and Slyman Brothers Appliances. We are proud of our business, and do not want our customers to be confused any longer about who they are buying appliances from."

Appliance Discounters declined comment to Daily RFT and has yet to respond in court to the initial complaint. However, it appears the company has removed mention of Slyman Brothers from its website, as mentioned in the lawsuit.

Update: Tony Slyman reached out to Riverfront Times a few days after this article was published to clear up what he thought was a confusing headline and to tell his side of the story. Below is his response in its entirety:

For the record, Appliance Discounters is not suing Slyman Brothers as reported earlier in the RFT nor has any intention of doing so. We find it shameful and embarrassing that any brother and sister would do so to one another. In reference to the so-called trademark infringements Slyman Brothers is referring to, it is me Tony Slyman using my personal name in ads and on the front door of my business. We have never used Slyman Brothers in any ads. We also post my sister's name, Denise Bradley, proudly in our ads and on our front door. Denise and I both feel blessed that our business has grown from two to thirty employees and is the fastest growing independent appliance retailer in the Midwest. We once stated in our bio on our website that we once co-owned Slyman Brothers which is true. It was removed long before the lawsuit when we changed our website. We feel there is plenty of business in St. Louis for all to prosper and are happy for their success. We only wish they felt the same for us. After speaking with our parents, Robert and Jerry Slyman who are the original owners of Slyman Brothers, they are adamantly against this baseless lawsuit and are upset that it has made its way to the media. It also states on Slyman Brothers website that my brothers and sister bought Slyman Brothers from our father. The fact is it was given to all five of us that were involved in the family business. My sister Denise and I gave back our stock at no cost when we broke off to go our own way.
Respectfully,
Tony Slyman
Continue on to view television ads from Appliance Discounter (mentioning the owners' names) as well as some classic Slyman Brothers' commercials.


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24 comments
STL15
STL15

Appliance Discounters are using the name Slyman to get business, Slyman is in their ads and in every store everywhere you look. A bunch of scam artists and I would be embarrassed if i was the owners of appliance discounters.

Arnold
Arnold

Cardinals or JH. it is what it is cuz.

natalie.slyman
natalie.slyman

@amym_alex I do not think anyone is threatened by anyone. I think this was a business move brought on by a lot of things that finally added up to too much. There is a lot more to the story here and it is unfortunate it made it into the media because it honestly shouldn't concern anyone but those directly involved. @Becca Bradley and @Kenneth Lee M you are right, no one should deny their name and who their father is and I do not think either party wants that. Greed and entitlement play no part here. I believe Slyman Bros. wants to maintain their great reputation, one they worked very hard for, humbled themselves for and dedicated their lives to. In order to do that, they do not want to be affiliated with another business. Bottom line. I'm sure if you asked most business owners if they would like to be associated with another business that had no affiliation with them and was selling the same product, they would say no. 

amym_alex
amym_alex

Obviously, they are threatened by Appliance Discounters, if people wanted to buy appliances from Slyman Brothers, they WOULD have, give people credit, they are going to shop where there is a good deal and the name is going to be secondary. 

Becca Bradley
Becca Bradley

@Kenneth, I could not agree more. Most level-headed people would be able to understand that; however, when there is greed and entitlement involved, sometimes the truth hurts.

Steve Hatfalvi
Steve Hatfalvi

A great name in the appliance biz, hope they work it out.

Kenneth Lee M
Kenneth Lee M

family disputes are always ugly. Especially when one member of the family goes out on his own ... to compete against the family business. That said, the owner's name is Tony Slyman. Is he supposed to change his name and deny that his father was Bob Slyman just to avoid confrontation. I could maybe see if his company name had "Slyman" in it some where but he has every right to attach his name to his own business. They should be happy he doesn't discuss that his father started Slyman Bros. and that he himself had worked there.

Brian Seim
Brian Seim

The American family..God Bless America....next on springer

WillWorkForChocolate
WillWorkForChocolate

@STL15 You are obviously a pear-shaped loser that is hung like a chinaman. Go straight to hell and eat dog shit.

cardinals
cardinals

@natalie.slyman @amym_alex If SB doesn't want to be affiliated with AD then why are they suddenly a scratch and dent dealer when they haven't been for 48 years?

JosepH12
JosepH12

@Kenneth Lee M  It was on their website. That is what started this. It no longer is because action was taken. That is a fact.

JosepH12
JosepH12

@Kenneth Lee M It was on their website. it no longer is because action was taken. That is a fact.

natalie.slyman
natalie.slyman

@cardinals Scratch and dent is not Slyman Bros. specialty, they mainly sell new appliances. Their choice to sell scratch and dent (if they do at all, I'm not sure that they do much of that) was probably driven by the market, not another business. Slyman Bros. does not keep tabs on other business's products, they sell what they believe their customers want at that time. And I think it is pretty bold and outrageous to assume that since they may sell scratch and dent from time to time, they then want to be affiliated with AD. 

cardinals
cardinals

@Arnold @cardinals @natalie.slyman Hey Arnold, the person's name is Natalie.  I rehab homes and usually spend around $3000 on appliances.  From now on I will look for the same package for $900.  I wasn't aware that I could save that kind of money on appliances.  Thanks!

cardinals
cardinals

@natalie.slyman So what you're saying is that a dealer can buy appliances in three different ways; factory refurbished, scratch and dent, and normal?  How does the factory determine if a product is classified under refurbished or scratch and dent?  It sounds to me like only the refurbished goods are tested but what if a scratch and dent appliance also has something wrong with the way it works?  Why wouldn't they test everything?

natalie.slyman
natalie.slyman

Factory refurbished means that when appliances come in damaged to dealers, they get sent back to the factory for inspection and as long as it is a cosmetic defect, Slyman Bros has the option to buy it at a discount and pass along the discount to the customers. Slyman Bros didn't come up with the term. If you need any further clarification, I'm sure you could contact Slyman Bros and they will be happy to explain.

cardinals
cardinals

@natalie.slyman @cardinals I'm sorry, their website says "factory refurbished," which doesn't exist.  The factory doesn't restore appliances, they build them.  Sorry, I was wrong. 

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