“Good poets borrow, great poets steal.” It’s a tidbit of advice passed around in the writing world that encourages taking inspiration from work you admire and making something entirely original rather than a cheap imitation. Trademark law, though, has a less poetic interpretation of intellectual property — especially when it comes to brands potentially ripping each other off.

That brings us to the cease and desist order, a legal action frequently used in copyright cases. No brand likes to see its ideas or image getting scooped up by someone else, and in the modern drinks landscape, we’ve seen companies quickly throw the book at one another when the competition walks the line between similarity and stealing. Some matters get settled peacefully, but for others, it gets much more messy. To get a glimpse at how some of these cases unfolded, we’ve rounded up the most iconic cease-and-desist cases in drinks history.

Liquid Death vs. Arnold Palmer Enterprises Inc.

Canned water brand Liquid Death is no stranger to in-your-face marketing. Its stunts have ranged from Voodoo dolls implanted with “Jackass” star Steve-O’s actual hair to enema kits backed by drummer Travis Barker, and as outrageous as these efforts may be, the products they’re promoting consistently sell out.

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In quintessential Liquid Death fashion, the brand launched an iced tea-lemonade hybrid in 2023 and dubbed it Armless Palmer, a nod to the beverage named for the late golfing legend. Sure enough, Arnold Palmer Enterprises Inc. threatened the brand with a lawsuit over its use of the Palmer name. Liquid Death’s response? The brand reintroduced its thirst quencher as Dead Billionaire. Liquid Death: 1. Arnold Palmer Enterprises Inc.: 0.

New England Brewing Co. vs. Lucasfilm Ltd.

Connecticut’s New England Brewing Co. offers a few crowd favorites, including its Fuzzy Baby Ducks IPA and its “Star Wars”-inspired Imperial Stout Trooper. The latter debuted in 2010 as a limited-edition release, its label featuring an image of what looks strikingly similar to an Imperial Stormtrooper helmet. Lucasfilm Ltd. promptly filed a cease-and-desist order requesting that the brewery change the beer’s design. A year later, the brewery re-released Imperial Stout Trooper with Groucho Marx-style glasses and a mustache slapped over the existing Stormtrooper facade. Since then, New England Brewing Co. has brewed a batch of the stout every winter, and the revised label hasn’t changed.

Icarus Brewing Company vs. The Hershey Company

The Hershey Company doesn’t f*ck around. About four years ago, New Jersey’s Icarus Brewing announced that it would be releasing Making Joy, an imperial milk stout brewed with cacao nibs, vanilla, coconut, and almonds in honor of the candy bar that inspired its inception. Later that week — literally mid-canning — the brewery received a cease-and-desist letter from The Hershey Company demanding a change in name and label for the soon-to-be-released brew. Icarus obliged and changed the beer’s name to Coconut & Desist. As for why Hershey would be so quick to snap on such a small brewery, perhaps it was due to the can’s identical font, or maybe it’s because the company saw the milk stout as potential competition to its chocolate porter brewed in collaboration with Pennsylvania’s Yuengling. Regardless, Icarus’s brew is a banger, and Hershey didn’t come out of the ordeal looking all that cool.

Brown-Forman vs. Lazy Fascist Press

Although most cease-and-desist cases are marked by legal threats and a stern attitude, this incident from 2012 involving Jack Daniel’s and a book cover ranks among one of the more low-key dilemmas. Shortly after publishing his satirical book “Broken Piano for President,” American author Patrick Wensink received a cease-and-desist letter from lawyer Christy Susman concerning the book’s cover, which is strikingly similar to the saloon-style labeling on Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey bottles. The book cover even has “40% alc by vol” written on it.

“We are certainly flattered by your affection for the brand, but while we can appreciate the pop culture appeal of Jack Daniel’s, we also have to be diligent to ensure that the Jack Daniel’s trademarks are used correctly,” Susman wrote. “In order to resolve this matter, because you are both a Louisville ‘neighbor’ and a fan of the brand, we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is reprinted.” Susman even goes on to offer the author monetary compensation for the cost of changing the cover art.

Despite the cordial letter, Wensink and his publisher, Lazy Fascist Press, declined to fulfill the request. “We’re proudly independent and don’t need any of that sweet corporate booze money to redo the cover,” Wensink wrote in a blog post. However, he does admit that the letter was “perhaps, the most polite cease and desist ever written.”

Starbucks vs. Exit 6

In December 2013, a small brewpub called Exit 6 — located in a strip mall in the small town of Cottleville, Mo. — debuted a beer-on-beer cocktail called Frappucino, composed of a splash of Founders Breakfast Stout served over the brewery’s vanilla cream ale. Despite the fact that Exit 6 actually forgot the second “c” in Frappuccino, brewer Jeff Britton promptly got a letter from Starbucks requesting that he change the name.

“When I got that letter, I had to laugh,” Britton told local TV news outlet KSDK. “I understand why [Starbucks] did it, and they had every right to do it. But I’m a small brewery, small bar, in a small town.” As there were three “check ins” on beer rating platform Untappd at the time, Britton admitted to Starbucks that he had sold at least three pints of the beer in question, and cheekily sent a $6 check to the coffee company for what he profited. To finally settle the score, he then shortened the drink’s name to the “F Word.” “We just want to help a business like Starbucks,” Britton wrote in his response to the cease and desist. “Us small business owners need to stick together.”

BrewDog vs. The Lone Wolf Bar

Scottish bar-brewery conglomerate BrewDog trademarked its vodka brand Lone Wolf in 2015, so when a Lone Wolf Bar opened in Birmingham, England, two years later, BrewDog demanded that the bar change its name. Bar owners Joshua and Sallie McFadyen obliged, switching the name to The Wolf and paying to change the bar’s signage and web page.

But Brewdog — a company known for preaching punk ideals but failing to walk the walk — got hit with a bunch of industry and public social media slander over the whole ordeal. So, with its tail between its legs, the brewery withdrew the lawsuit and compensated the McFadyens for all the money they spent fighting it.

“We made a mistake in how we acted,” co-founder James Watt wrote of the matter in a statement from the brand. “At BrewDog we should take the view to only enforce [trademarks] if something really detrimental to our business is happening. And here, I do not think that was the case.”

Gosling’s Limited vs. Inu A Kena

It’s tough to say who really owns any cocktail. Even though we know which bartenders invented certain drinks, it’s not like Sam Ross collects royalties on every Penicillin served across the globe. That said, Gosling’s Limited was able to trademark the world-famous Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail — a simple mix of Gosling’s Black Strap Rum and ginger beer — decades ago, and the company has made it a point to vehemently defend the name ever since. So when blogger Josh Miller made a post on his rum-focused cocktail blog, Inu A Kena, comparing which brands of cheap dark rum taste best with ginger beer and referred to a non-Gosling’s mix as a Dark ‘n Stormy, a group of attorneys reached out on behalf of the brand.

“They kindly requested that within five days I remove from my blog all references to names for said combinations that weren’t “Dark ‘N Stormy ®,” Miller wrote in a follow-up post. “They were also kind enough to inform me that if I chose not to remove the post, I could be subject to injunctive relief (they get a court to take it down for me) triple damages as well as attorney fees.”

Sarcastic yet cooperative, Miller wrapped up the post by saying: “Thanks to this experience, I now realize that I am not worthy to speak about rum-based highballs, much less write about them. I will never again discuss drinks containing cane spirits and brewed ginger-based beverages unless using the proper legal terminology. This I promise you.”

*Image retrieved from zoommachine via stock.adobe.com