Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonist, writer and Joe King’s alter ego

Put up your Dukes: Lawyers at play

07/13/2014 12:00 AM

07/10/2014 3:16 PM

John Wayne once said, “I never trust a man who doesn’t drink.” To that end, his estate has marketed a bourbon called “Duke,” after the iconic actor’s nickname.

Duke University objected, legally.

They asserted that the drink could “diminish, dilute and tarnish” the image of Duke University, and lawyers for John Wayne Enterprises observed that the school “seems to think it owns the word ‘Duke’ for all purposes and applications.” So Wayne’s estate decided to sue Duke for being name hogs.

This has been going on, back and forth, between John Wayne Enterprises and Duke University since 2005.

As John Wayne Enterprises is a fine California corporation, I have to side with it, as a contributor to our standing as the eighth-largest world economy. Plus, Duke University is wack, which I am quite certain is a legal term.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t go to the University of North Carolina or anything like that. I just went to the University of Minnesota, which has a mascot called the “Golden Gopher.” Duke University has a “Blue Devil,” which is faintly satanic. No. It’s actually satanic. And blue.

Lawyers for the color blue, based in New York, filed a lawsuit last week challenging Duke University’s use of the color. The blue legal team, noted that “our color is currently being defamed by a school founded with money earned by sale and distribution therein of tobacco, a known carcinogen.”

Furthermore, Team Blue wrote, “the association of ‘blue’ with the devil prima facie is legally actionable as well.”

The devil’s law firm countersued blue, for fun. And Duke. The devil’s lawyers (aren’t they all, really?) said that the color blue is “historically not associated with our client – the color red is – and may lead to dilution of our brand.”

The color red was suing blue for copyright infringement. This led to other colors filing various suits as well. The color orange was suing House Speaker John Boehner, the color green was suing a multitude of so-called environmentally friendly products, and the color yellow was suing the other colors for being associated with cowardice.

When lawyers for the heirs of Duke Kahanamoku and Duke Ellington discovered that Duke University and John Wayne Enterprises were wrangling over the Duke name, things really got complicated. This led Michael Dukakis, Patty Duke and the family of Archduke Ferdinand to file a class-action lawsuit against John Wayne’s outfit and the North Carolina university.

I don’t know what John Wayne would say about all this, but he would probably need a drink after he found out his company was being sued by Bruce Wayne, Wayne Newton and Wayne State University. Wayne State also sued Duke University for “attempting to monopolize the word ‘university’.”

When all the other universities found out that Wayne State was going after Duke, well, you can see where things got out of hand. The 50 attorneys general of the 50 states sued Wayne State for trying to use the word ‘state’ without paying any royalties.

As it turns out, John Wayne isn’t really named “John Wayne.” His given name is Marion Robert Morrison, which probably wasn’t the greatest name John Wayne could have had in order to ultimately become “John Wayne.” So he took the nickname “Duke,” in addition to the wholly fictitious name, “John Wayne.”

The real Duke was actually the name of Marion Robert Morrison’s boyhood dog, an Airedale.

All I can say to dogs of that pedigree is this: Lawyer up.

About This Blog

Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award and the national SPJ Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com. Twitter: @JACKOHMAN.


Join the Discussion

The Sacramento Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service