John Wayne’s Family Sues Duke Univ; UK Fans DrinkBy: Mike Tuttle - July 9, 2014
John Wayne is The Duke. Even though he died in 1979, he is still known to fans as The Duke, a nickname he had since childhood.
Now John Wayne’s heirs are in a legal battle with Duke University over use of the word “Duke” in a product they want to market — a bourbon with John Wayne’s picture on the bottle.
Apparently, both John Wayne Enterprises and the university hold trademarks to the name “Duke” — as does jazz legend Duke Ellington. On three occasions since 2005, when the Wayne family wanted to license a product, they have had to face the gauntlet from the Blue Devil lawyers.
“Duke University does not own the word ‘Duke’ in all contexts for all purposes,” the Wayne lawsuit says. “Duke is a common word that has been used for centuries in a wide array of commercial and other applications wholly independent of Duke University. Yet by the actions alleged herein, Duke University seems to think it owns the word ‘Duke’ for all purposes and applications.”
The family argues that Duke University has never been in the business of selling alcohol. They want a judge to agree that both parties can use the name without having to endure a barrage of legal maneuvering from the other every time they do.
Duke University responded by saying, “While we admire and respect John Wayne’s contributions to American culture, we are also committed to protecting the integrity of Duke University’s trademarks. As Mr. Wayne himself said, ‘Words are what men live by; words they say and mean.'”
The bourbon the Wayne’s want to license the Duke likeness and name to is a small batch Kentucky straight bourbon. Had Duke University never said a word against the bourbon, and given the long-standing rivalry between Kentucky and Duke on the basketball court, it is questionable as to whether UK fans would have bought a bottle of anything that said “DUKE” on the label. But now the enemy of my enemy may become my friend. Perhaps we can expect to see support from Wildcat fans and bourbon lovers.
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