Dueling Dukes: John Wayne family sues university over trademark
“I never trust a man that doesn’t drink,” John Wayne famously said. What about a university?
The family of legendary actor John “The Duke” Wayne is suing Duke University over the use of the word “Duke” in a trademark for alcoholic beverages.
John Wayne Enterprises, run by the Wayne family, filed for a trademark application last year to use the word on alcoholic drink labels, except for beer.
Duke University, located in North Carolina, objected to the trademark. The school argued there could be a “false suggestion of a connection” between the labels and the school, according to a complaint by the Wayne family filed July 3 in a U.S. district court in California.
The Wayne heirs said there is no reason for confusion, and the university “does not own the word ‘Duke’ in all contexts for all purposes,” the complaint says.
It also says, “Duke University is not and never has been in the business of producing, marketing, distributing or selling alcohol.”
In a statement, Duke University said, “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,’” according to an e-mail from university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld.
This isn’t the first trademark standoff between the two Dukes. The Wayne family outlined five other objections from the university since 2005.
Born Marion Robert Morrison, John Wayne was called Duke as a boy because that was the name of his family’s dog. The nickname stuck throughout his career.