On the Liquid Death “Armless Palmer” controversy

As reported by many outlets, including this article on The Sports Room, the relatively well known canned water/drink brand Liquid Death was at the center of a controversy and legal dispute. The dispute centered around the name of one of their drinks, a hybrid of lemonade and iced tea, commonly known as an “Arnold Palmer” after the late legendary golfer of the same name. Liquid Death called their take on the drink an “Armless Palmer” in line with the other drink flavor names under their brand such as “Grim Leafer”, “Rest In Peach”, “Convicted Melon”, and “Berry It Alive”.

Well, turns out that the late golfer’s name for this combination is a licensed trademark, specifically licensed by Arizona Beverage Company, one of the companies competing against Liquid Death. Not surprisingly, neither Arizona nor those in charge of Arnold Palmer’s estate were very happy about seeing this parody/trademark infringement on the shelves of local stores. They threatened legal action to defend the trademark. Now I don’t fault them for this, as trademarks have to be legally defended or they risk being lost.

And then came Liquid Death’s response to the legal threat. Obviously, they are not going to discontinue the product entirely. No, Liquid Death just came up with a new name for it. Enter “Dead Billionaire”. A great way to keep the branding on theme, yet an ever-so-subtle middle finger at the competitors threatening legal action. Note that Liquid Death takes a bit of poetic license here, as according to the Wikipedia article about Arnold Palmer, his estate was worth only $875 million at the time of his death. Close enough, I say; his name as a beverage trademark has almost certainly brought in the difference since then.

I don’t usually drink tea-and-lemonade blend beverages, regardless of name, but I may well pick up one of these to see what it’s like.

(Full disclosure: within the last 12 months, I did do some merchandising work for Liquid Death. The reference photo above was not taken at the store where I did the merchandising.)