It’s doubtful that Netflix saw this one coming.
The streaming giant has been sued by Chooseco LLC, the company that owns the trademark to the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books. The lawsuit, filed on Friday in Vermont, accuses Netflix of ripping off its concept in the recently released interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Chooseco said in its complaint, which you can read in full below, that the company has been using the trademark since the 1980s. The company says that 20th Century Fox currently holds an options contract to develop an interactive series based on the Choose Your Own Adventure books.
It alleges that Netflix also pursued its own licence in 2016 but never received one.
“Chooseco and Netflix engaged in extensive negotiations that were ongoing for a number of years, but Netflix did not receive a license,” reads the complaint. “On at least one occasion before the release of Bandersnatch, Chooseco sent a written cease and desist request to Netflix asking Netflix to stop using the CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE mark in connection with its marketing efforts for another television program.”
Bandersnatch, a standalone movie based in the Black Mirror series universe, is structured like a video game, where you, as the viewer, make choices for the characters onscreen.
Set in the 1980s, Bandersnatch introduces us to Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), a young programmer who has hopes of creating a bestselling, text-based computer game inspired by a choose-your-own-adventure-style novel given to him as a child.
Chooseco accuses Netflix of benefitting off of its brand, which it claims has been known worldwide for decades. To date, Chooseco has sold more than 265 million copies of the popular Choose Your Own Adventure books.
Many critical reviews — including Global News’ own coverage — described the show as similar in format to Choose Your Own Adventure. It’s difficult to find a review that doesn’t mention the brand.
Stefan even mentions it himself near the beginning of Bandersnatch when describing his video game idea to his father.
This part of the movie is referenced in the lawsuit, and Chooseco insists that viewers have assumed that Choose Your Own Adventure is somehow affiliated with Black Mirror and Bandersnatch.
Chooseco is demanding injunctive relief as well as at least US$25 million in damages or Netflix’s profits — whichever is bigger. The company claims infringement, unfair competition, false designation and dilution arising under the Trademark Act.
As of this writing, Netflix has not commented on the lawsuit.