John Wayne Bourbon in trademark disputeBy Amy Hopkins
The descendants of American actor John Wayne are locked in a legal battle with Duke University over the launch of a new Bourbon brand called Duke, the late movie star’s nickname.
John Wayne Enterprises has claimed that Duke University, based in North Carolina, is attempting to block the company from selling Duke Bourbon over fears of mixed association.
Late last year, Wayne’s heirs applied to trademark the “Duke” on a new range of alcoholic beverages using a label which features an image of John Wayne, launching the Duke Bourbon brand last month.
However, Duke University has since filed an objection with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, claiming the label used in the bottle is “substantially similar” to its own logos, which feature a blue devil mascot and university shield.
Wayne’s estate has branded this claim as “ludicrous”, arguing that “Duke University does not own the word Duke in all contexts for all purposes”.
“Apparently, Duke University believes that products bearing John Wayne’s world renowned image and signature, like the bottle of Bourbon, will somehow be confused as being associated with Duke University,” said the estate.
John Wayne Enterprises is now calling for courts to remove what it calls the “cloud of an eventual infringement claim”.
A spokesman for Duke University said the school does not object to selling spirits or other products as “The Duke” if they “unmistakably connect” themselves to John Wayne.
John Wayne, who died in 1979, used the nickname Duke since childhood, adopting the name from his family dog.