Wayne family members seek control of estate plan

For years, John Wayne ruled the windswept west of the silver screen, earning the nickname “Duke” from coworkers and fans. Even today, mention of the Duke still brings the rugged visage and slow drawl of the cowboy actor to mind for many in Texas and across the country. The Duke’s brand isn’t binding, though, since golden-age actors weren’t in the habit of trademarking every phrase that came their way.

Today, John Wayne’s heirs are fighting to keep the moniker in the family, but they are running up against opposition from Duke University. According to reports, Wayne Enterprises has ventured into legal skirmishes with the university since 2005. The latest court-related battle had to do with the Wayne’s heirs desire to use the Duke moniker to market alcoholic beverages such as bourbon.

The university’s argument against Wayne Enterprises using the name to market products is that such activity could dilute or harm the school’s brand. According to reports, Wayne Enterprises filed a suit in the matter in another state. However, the lawsuit was dismissed by the judge, who said the court didn’t have jurisdiction.

Estate issues don’t always revolve around physical assets or monetary concerns, as this case shows. And celebrities aren’t the only people who may leave behind intellectual property or other non-physical assets. Artists, writers, public figures and inventors are just some of the types of individuals who may leave behind difficult-to-classify valuables. Heirs who believe they are entitled to trademarks, royalties or control of intellectual property may have to seek legal protection over those rights, even in cases when the property or rights are included in a will or other document.

Source: Alvarado Star, “John Wayne’s heirs lose ‘Duke’ legal brawl” Oct. 01, 2014