Duke's bad idea: Grabbing John Wayne's drink

July 10, 2014 

Now if John Wayne were still with us, he might this day be walking with that memorable lopsided gait toward Duke University officials and saying, "Fill your hand, Pilgrim..." Or in Duke the University's case, "Fill your hand, Methodist," what with the school's connection to that denomination.

Under the heading of "Strange things people argue about" comes a dispute between Wayne heirs with John Wayne Enterprises and Duke University. The fuss is about the Wayne family wanting to market various endeavors using Wayne's famous, long-standing nickname of "Duke."

Not so fast, says the university in offering a legal objection. Duke the University wants to protect against "tarnishment of its brand" and thus objects to, for example, the labeling of "Duke" Kentucky bourbon.

On its face, it seems highly unlikely to the casual observer that anyone is going to look at a bourbon bottle with a drawing of John Wayne on it and mistake it for something manufactured by Duke the University. That's what the Wayne family is saying in defending its position.

A UNC-Chapel Hill fan notes, "We always thought Duke University changed its name from Trinity College in honor of John Wayne...but we understand there was a James B. Duke who had something to do with it. Oh, well." But we don't agree with that sarcastic fan that the university could settle the issue by changing the spelling of its name to "Dook."

Maybe if all the parties hashed things out over a drink...

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