Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch got a lot of people talking when the interactive movie debuted on the streaming platform two weeks ago, but it also drew the attention of Chooseco, LLC, the children’s book publisher who owns the “Choose Your Own Adventure” trademark. Chooseco filed a lawsuit in federal court today, saying that Netflix infringed on their trademark and is “causing confusion, tarnishing, denigrating, and diluting the distinct quality of the Choose Your Own Adventure mark.” Read more details about the Bandersnatch lawsuit below.
The Hollywood Reporter points us to the complaint, in which Chooseco is angry that Netflix is benefitting from association with their brand, saying the movie’s “dark and violent themes are too mature for the target audience of the Choose Your Own Adventure books.” Plus, they’re mad Netflix isn’t paying them.
“Beginning in 2016, Netflix actively pursued a license to use Choose Your Own Adventure in connection with films and interactive cartoons,” the claim states. “Chooseco and Netflix engaged in extensive negotiations that were ongoing for a number of years, but Netflix did not receive a license.” In addition, the claim points out that 20th Century Fox actually holds an option contract with Chooseco “to develop an interactive film series based on the Choose Your Own Adventure books.” (For more on that, click here.)
The claim also specifically calls attention to a moment early in Bandersnatch when protagonist Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) tells his father that the book he’s reading is a “Choose Your Own Adventure book.” Chooseco turned the subtitles on and provided a screenshot where the words were capitalized:
“Its use of quotes and capital letters in the subtitles is further evidence of Netflix’s knowing and willful use of Chooseco’s trademark,” they said.
If those words weren’t capitalized, Netflix may have been able to get away with the idea of referring to the book as a type of story rather than a specific entry in the trademarked franchise – sort of like how some people refer to a generic tissue as a “Kleenex” just because that brand became synonymous with the item itself. And who knows – maybe they’ll still be able to get away with it. Netflix hasn’t used the Choose Your Own Adventure name in any of its marketing for Black Mirror, so the association seems largely to have come from people like us writing articles about it and using that trademark phrase as a shorthand so people understand what they’re in for.
Chooseco is seeking at least $25 million in damages or Netflix’s profits, whichever is greater. Bandersnatch is streaming right now.
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