The Duke vs. Duke University

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

It’s a classic clash of symbols: The family of a right-wing icon goes head to head with a left-wing school, but for distinctly apolitical reasons.  “Heirs of the late movie legend John Wayne have filed a lawsuit against Duke University over use of the ‘Duke’ nickname , which the family wants to register for use in marketing bourbon and other alcoholic beverages,” CBS Los Angeles reported recently.

“Duke University states that the grounds for the Oppositions are ‘deceptiveness,’ ‘false suggestion of a connection,’ ‘priority and likelihood of confusion,’ and ‘dilution,’” the family claims in its lawsuit. John Wayne Enterprises filed suit in LA on July 3.

“Apparently, Duke University believes that products bearing John Wayne’s world renowned image and signature, like the bottle of bourbon depicted in Exhibit A attached hereto, will somehow be confused as being associated with Duke University,” the family’s attorneys allege. “The bottle of bourbon in Exhibit A is imprinted with ‘Monument Valley Distillers.’”

“John Wayne’s image and signature are prominently featured on the label, along with the words ‘Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Small Batch’ and the image of a shot gun shell casing.” Somehow we think the Duke would have approved, provided, of course, that it was a really good bourbon.

Here’s the final irony: Duke University actually takes its name from that of the famous family which donated generously to the school. The Duke family fortune, in turn, came from tobacco, a little bit of history the infamously politically correct university is loathe to disclose.