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John Wayne Enterprises battling Duke University over bourbon that bears his nickname

JWE is fighting for the right to sell “Duke” bourbon.
By Evan Bleier Follow @itishowitis Contact the Author   |   Updated July 10, 2014 at 9:49 AM

DURHAM, N.C., July 10 (UPI) -- Before "Duke" was synonymous with Blue Devils and March Madness, many people associated it with actor John Wayne.

"The Duke" was involved in many filmed battles during his movie career and now there is a legal one going on over the right to use his nickname.

John Wayne Enterprises and Duke University are locked in a legal fight over the company's right to sell "Duke" bourbon and other commercial products with the actor's nickname. The school also alleges that the font used for the logo on the bourbon bottle is "substantially similar" to the school's logo.

JWE filed a federal lawsuit filed last week hoping to put an end to the school's opposition to the company's use of the name.

"Duke University does not own the word 'Duke' in all contexts for all purposes," according to court filings. "Duke is a common word that has been used for centuries in a wide array of commercial and other applications wholly independent of Duke University. Yet by the actions alleged herein, Duke University seems to think it owns the word 'Duke' for all purposes and applications."

The private university is named after a wealthy Durham family who endowed the school in the early 1900s. Duke was the name of Wayne's family dog.

"The university doesn't object to the use of 'Duke' on alcoholic beverages, as long as it is clearly linked to John Wayne's likeness," Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld wrote in an email to the LA Times. "While we admire and respect John Wayne's contributions to American culture, we are also committed to protecting the integrity of Duke University's trademarks. As Mr. Wayne himself said, 'Words are what men live by ... words they say and mean.'"

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