Duke And The Duke Duke It Out Over Duke Bourbon

from the dookie dept

It never stops: somehow the concept of trademark disputes and alcohol are intrinsically intertwined or something. I’ve always been surprised at how many trademark disputes involving beer or liquor I seem to come across, from small breweries battling egotistical families, to small breweries battling big breweries, and to small breweries battling Texas A&M (seriously…). But this one is a new one, even for me.

See apparently Duke University and the heirs of John Wayne, a.k.a. The Duke, have had something of a long Hatfields vs. Mccoys type of feud. Both entities have separate trademarks on “Duke” that mostly results in each going after the other every time either tries to expand into a different market while using the moniker. This latest go ’round is over bourbon, which I love, and Duke University is claiming that a John Wayne themed bourbon might be mistaken as a university-branded bourbon.

A federal lawsuit filed last week is the latest salvo in a long-running legal duel between the North Carolina university and California-based John Wayne Enterprises over commercial products featuring the name. The late actor used the moniker since childhood, when he adopted the name of the family dog. Lawyers for the university say allowing the Wayne estate to use the name could cause confusion and “diminish, dilute and tarnish” the value of the name, for which both parties hold trademarks.

And you can see Duke University’s point. After all, their logo…

…is strikingly similar to the proposed logo for Duke Bourbon…

I can just sense all of you scratching your heads in concentration as you try to determine whether or not those two brands are related. Here’s a crazy thought: maybe the fact that the bourbon label doesn’t include the word “university”, has a completely different color scheme, shows the damned picture and signature of one of the most famous movie stars in the history of cinema, and even has the state of Kentucky make a cameo, while Duke University is in North Carolina, all means that the likelihood of confusion is essentially null, void, and damn it why do we have to have this stupid conversation?

The most likely scenario is one where these two entities are so used to just going legal every time one of them does anything with the word “Duke” that they can’t help themselves any longer. They’re just feuding to feud at this point, which would be fine except that isn’t the purpose of trademark law and it sets a crappy example for everyone else to follow. You’d think an institution like Duke University would be better than that.

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Comments on “Duke And The Duke Duke It Out Over Duke Bourbon”

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27 Comments
Binko Barnes (profile) says:

The part that bothers me the most is that there exists an entity called “John Wayne Enterprises” that holds a monopoly on and acts to monetize a long dead beloved cultural figure.

Meanwhile fans and the public are legally blocked from making any kind of creative use of this cultural icon. It seems we have absolutely no common, shared culture beyond worship of the dollar.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

JWE is headed by Ethan Wayne, The Duke’s youngest son, who is a fierce protector of his father’s legacy.

translation:
JWE is headed by a parasite named Ethan Wayne, The Duke’s most incompetent and worthless son, who is a fierce protector of the gravy train he lucked into at the expense of the public domain.

lifetime plus unreasonable ? how can you say that, what incentive do dead celebrities have to, well, keep being celebrated ? ? ?

b-, bu-, but, who will think of the dead celebrities’ lazy, entitled offspring who otherwise would have to earn their own living ? ? ?
sniffle

Kronomex (profile) says:

What a crock of shit! All this does is show how pathetic they are.
Where’s the president armed with a machine gun shouting:
President: [fires machine gun at the Duke] Ayy! Number Onnee! You’re the Duke! You’re the Duke!
[stops firing]
President: You’re the… Duke.
[quietly]
President: You’re… A-number one.

(thanks to whoever put the quotes up on IMDb)

Fen says:

“Lawyers for the university say allowing the Wayne estate to use the name could cause confusion and “diminish, dilute and tarnish” the value of the name”

Uhm… you falsely accused the Lacrosse team of rape. And nothing happened to the “professors” who started the Duke 88 false slander of the students. Kinda late to express concerns about the value of your name – its trash.

richard40 (profile) says:

A very simple settlement proposal. Any use of the john wayne duke brand logo that has a picture of john wayne included, and any use of the duke uiversity brand logo that has a picture of the college included, ia automatically not infringing, and will never be subject to litigation. Any consumer that could confuse those 2 is an idiot. Case settled, fairly and permanently, but then how could each sides idiot lawyers find future employment.

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