Tonight, Duke University plays for the college men’s basketball championship. They are a great team this year, and have had tremendous success for many years on the court under Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Duke files myriad trademark oppositions at the USPTO. And Duke of course is not a coined word. In fact, according to a USPTO search of TESS (“(duke)[BI] and (live)[LD] not (“Duke university”)[on] not (0)[rn]“) the term “Duke” appears in more than 150 current USPTO trademark registrations that are not owned by Duke University.

I don’t throw around the phrase “trademark bully” lightly. But to me there is no question that Duke is arguably in that category. Does the university take protecting its trademarks too far? I look at two factors to asses whether a “bullying” label is appropriate: whether the claim is over-reaching and whether the tactics are heavy handed. Over-reaching occurs when the alleged infringer is really making no commercial impact on the enforcer. For example, when the alleged infringer’s use is trivial; their industry or market or products or services are quite different; or there are already tons of third party uses of similar marks and the claim has no merit. The “bully” label may fit even if just one factor is present, i.e. the claim is very over-reaching or the tactics are very heavy-handed, especially is there is a pattern of behavior.

Below are some of the Oppositions filed by Duke at the TTAB in just the last 12 months. You can review the records by clicking on the links:

  • Trademark image (Housing services, namely, rental of student housing; Rental of apartments; Shopping center services, namely, rental of shopping center space; Rental of office space; Rental of retail space)
  • Trademark image (Custom made to measure suits for men and women; custom made to measure equestrian apparel in the nature of suits, shirts, pants, vests, and coats; equestrian apparel in the nature of suits, shirts, pants, vests, coats, ties, gloves, boots, and hats; custom made to measure professional wear in the nature of men’s and women’s business suits, shirts, jackets, coats, pants, vests, and skirts; men’s and women’s suits, shirts, jackets, coats, pants, vests, ties, and skirts; and clothing accessories, namely, pocket squares; Wholesale and retail stores services featuring equestrian apparel and professional apparel in the nature of men’s and women’s suits, shirts, vests, pants, skirts, ties; retail store services featuring clothing accessories, namely, collar bars, pins, pendants, gloves, hats, boots, ties, and pocket squares; and online and mobile retail stores services featuring equestrian apparel and professional apparel in the nature of men’s and women’s suits, shirts, vests, jackets, pants, coats, skirts, hats, boots, gloves, and ties; Custom fabrication, production, and fitting of clothing, namely, equestrian riding suits, custom men’s professional suits, shirts, jackets, vests, and pants, and women’s professional suits, jackets, skirts, vests, pants, and shirts; Consulting in the field of clothing design)
  • BLUE BALL CHILLER (Alcoholic beverages except beers)
  • DRANK UNIVERSITY (Athletic apparel, namely, shirts, pants, jackets, footwear, hats and caps, athletic uniforms; Baseball caps and hats; Caps; Hooded sweat shirts; Hooded sweatshirts; Knitted caps; Leather hats; Open-necked shirts; Polo shirts; Rugby shirts; Short-sleeved or long-sleeved t-shirts; Skull caps; Sports caps and hats; Sweat bands; Sweat jackets; Sweat pants; Sweat shirts; Sweat shorts; Sweat suits; T-shirts; Tee shirts; Wearable garments and clothing, namely, shirts)
  • TRUE BLUE (On-line retail store services featuring auto parts; On-line wholesale store services featuring auto parts)
  • MY LITTLE DEVIL (Clothing, namely, scarves)
  • DUKE KABOB (Restaurant services)
  • Trademark image(sunglasses and spectacles; contact lenses; protective eyewear; parts, fittings and accessories therefor in this class including lenses, frames, chains, cases and other protective covers)
  • THIS GIRL LIKES THE D (t-shirts)
  • THE DRINK OF THE DEVIL (Alcoholic beverages except beers; Distilled Spirits; Liqueurs)
  • BLEED BLUE (Water beverages)
  • THE DUKE SADDLE (Riding saddles; Saddles)
  • DUKE OF DENIM (Clothing made in whole or substantial part of denim, namely, caps, coats, denims, dresses, gloves, hats, jackets, jeans, pants, shirts, shorts, T-shirts, tops and footwear, shoes and underwear)
  • THE D (Electronic cigarette liquid (e-liquid) comprised of flavorings in liquid form used to refill electronic cigarette cartridges)
  • Trademark image(Athletic apparel, namely, shirts, pants, jackets, footwear, hats, caps and athletic uniforms; Sporting equipment for baseball and softball, namely, bats, balls, bags, gloves, mitts, and bat and glove racks; catcher’s protective gear for baseball and softball, namely, leg guards, chest protector, and face mask; baseball and softball training aids, namely, one hand trainer, short bat trainer, under load trainer, power swing trainer, overload trainer, flat glove trainer, wood bat baseball trainer, wood bat softball trainer, infield glove trainer, outfield glove trainer, catcher’s glove trainer, training batting gloves, and batting tees)
  • Duke’s Butt (Adult sexual stimulation aids, namely, artificial penises, artificial vaginas)
  • Rare Devil (Beer, ale, lager, stout, porter, shandy)
  • Trademark image (Business consulting services, namely, providing assistance in development of business strategies and creative ideation)
  • OVERDUE BLUE (Alcoholic beverages except beers)
  • Trademark image (Protective clothing for life-preserving purposes for sports, namely, motoring, motorcycling, cycling, skiing and mountaineering, riding, in the nature of suits, jackets, trousers, helmets, gloves and boots containing air bags for the prevention of injury; protective helmets; protective helmets for sports, namely, motoring, motorcycling, cycling, skiing and mountaineering, riding; protective footwear for the prevention of accidents and injury; protection devices for personal use against accidents, namely, air bags; protective glasses; protective glasses for sports, namely, motoring, motorcycling, cycling, skiing and mountaineering, riding; protective gloves for protection from accidents; diving gloves; triggering software for inflatable protective devices; accelerometer sensors; impact sensors for measuring deceleration and accident impact severity; electronic control units for air bags; Apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water, namely, cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, boats, motorboats, sail boats and airplanes; inflatable air bags for apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water for the prevention of injury in case of accidents; air bags; Clothing articles, namely, raincoats, T-shirts, trousers, shirts, jackets, gilets, sweaters, sports jackets, coats, overalls; headwear; belts; shoes; boots; gloves; ski gloves; motorcycle gloves; riding gloves; Protective paddings in the nature of parts of sport suits, namely, for driving motor vehicles, motorcycling, cycling, skiing and mountaineering, and riding)

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