HomeEntertainmentJohn Wayne’s Estate and Duke University ‘Duked It’ Out: Here’s Why

John Wayne’s Estate and Duke University ‘Duked It’ Out: Here’s Why

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Hulton-Deutsch/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s a tale of two dueling Dukes. John Wayne’s Estate and Duke University came to legal blows back in 2014 over the actor’s popular nickname. Like many good fights, it all happened over a bottle of bourbon.

The actor’s song Ethan Wayne wanted to fulfill a dream of his father’s he never got around to completing. John Wayne loved his liquor, and we mean really loved it. When the actor died, he left behind all his favorite drinks and alcohol all bottled up in storage. His son uncovered the liquor treasure trove and decided to open a brand of alcohol in his father’s honor.

He opened Duke Spirits, and in 2013, the John Wayne Enterprises filed to use the trademarks “Duke and “Duke John Wayne” in association with alcoholic beverages. In life, the actor never called himself John Wayne. He was always Duke Morrison to his family and friends.

“That was how he was known by the people who were closest to him,” James Olson, co-author of “John Wayne: American,” told NPR. “He would say, ‘Anyone who calls me John doesn’t know me.’ ”

Well, Duke University took issue with the trademark. They didn’t want their school name to be associated with a liquor brand. So they filed an objection.

Duke University Fights John Wayne’s Estate

This wasn’t the first time that the Blue Devils took issue with John Wayne’s estate. Previously, the North Carolina-based university tried to stop the estate from using Duke in association with both a restaurant and celebrity licensing services. The two have been at odds since 2005.

The university objected on the grounds that the log0 was “substantially similar” to the university’s logos. They also claimed that the sale of alcohol was closely related to their own services and goods. They insisted that the line of alcohol would diminish their own holding on the name’s trademark.

“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,” a spokesperson for the school said at the time. “As Mr. Wayne himself said, ‘Words are what men live by, words they say and mean.’”

Fortunately for whiskey fans, they can still buy Duke Spirits to this day. A bottle of the liquor sells on the official website for around $44.