Famed actor John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison, but he was perhaps best known for his nickname, “The Duke.” The Duke personified the American Wild West. He shot and strung up bad guys, fought his way out of tight spots, and generally exhibited a level of awesome manliness that inspired generations of American men. The Duke also enjoyed his whiskey, and his family recently launched a “Duke” brand whiskey, “inspired by bottles from John Wayne’s personal whiskey collection, preserved for over 50 years and only recently discovered.” Sounds great, right? Well, not to everyone.
Reportedly, Duke University recently filed objections in the trademark office to prevent the whiskey from using the “Duke” name, alleging that doing so will ”’cause confusion and dilution’ that hurts the school’s recruiting and reputation.” The Duke’s family, which has filed a lawsuit of its own in California, denounces Duke University’s arguments as “ludicrous,” and argues that “[Duke University] ‘has never been in the business of producing, marketing, distributing or selling alcohol,’ [but the school] ‘seems to think it owns the word ‘Duke’ for all purposes and applications.”
It will be interesting to see how this one turns out, as both sides have some interesting arguments. While the outcome is not clear, one thing is. Duke University should count its lucky stars that it is dealing with the family and not the Duke himself, because the Duke didn’t believe in lawsuits: “Out here a man settles his own problems.”