John Wayne's Heirs Shot Down in Dispute with Duke University over Duke Booze

Well this one was put to bed quickly, but not on the merits. As detailed below, the estate of John Wayne had preemptively sued Duke University requesting a declaration of non-infringement over the estate’s intent to use the DUKE trademark on booze. Yesterday, the case was dismissed because the Court held that Duke University did not have sufficient contacts with the State of California to justify jurisdiction in California. John Wayne’s heirs are free to refile the case in North Carolina, where Duke University is located, and the fight over the trademarks continues at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Originally Posted on July 10, 2014
John Wayne Enterprises (JWE), a company run by heirs of the late movie star, is seeking declaratory judgment in a lawsuit against Duke University. JWE is suing because Duke University has opposed trademarks using the word “Duke” with the most recent application for Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon in the alcoholic beverages category.
The complaint paints a picture of how John Wayne is an American icon that has been using the nickname, Duke since he was a boy who didn’t like his actual name, Marion. Duke was originally the dog’s name. Throughout his career he was referred to as “The Duke” or “Duke”.
Duke University is opposing JWE’s trademarks because they are likely to cause confusion with their brand. JWE has countered that this is ludicrous and that there is no possibility of confusion between the research university and the word “Duke” when paired with John Wayne’s image or brand. Further JWE asserts that Duke University is trying to claim ownership of the word, duke, when it is a common word used throughout history.
JWE seeks declaratory judgment that their marks do not infringe those of Duke University, that there is no likelihood of confusion and attorney’s fees.