John Wayne’s heirs sue Duke University over the name ‘Duke’

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(Photo of John Wayne courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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SANTA ANA, Calif. — John Wayne’s heirs are suing Duke University over the family’s right to market bottles of bourbon branded with the late movie star’s nickname, “Duke.”

According to multiple media reports, a federal lawsuit filed last week in Santa Ana is the most recent installment of a long-running legal battle between the university and California-based John Wayne Enterprises over commercial products featuring the name.

Lawyers for the university have said allowing the family to use the name could cause confusion and “diminish, dilute and tarnish” the value of the name.

The proposed bourbon would feature an image of the late movie star holding a rifle with “Duke” over it in bold letters.

“Duke University does not own the word ‘Duke’ in all contests and purposes,” the family’s lawyers said in the lawsuit. “Duke University seems to think it owns the word ‘Duke’ for all purposes and applications.”

In 2005, Duke University filed a motion to stop the family from registering the name.

John Wayne spent five decades of his life as an actor where he earned the nickname “The Duke” from his fans.

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