Netflix sued over Black Mirror: Bandersnatch “Choose your own adventure”


Netflix is facing a lawsuit for trademark infringement related to Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. What is actually happening?

Another day, another lawsuit in the world of entertainment, and this time it’s Netflix and Black Mirror’s turn. By now, everyone has heard about (or watched at least twice) Netflix’s interactive movie Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, where the viewer chooses where the story will go.

The movie, set in 1984, follows a young programmer developing a video-game inspired on a “choose your own adventure” novel – hence the style of the movie itself. Turns out that they can’t use the phrase “choose your own adventure” freely, and now Netflix is facing a lawsuit for trademark infringement.

Deadline reports that Chooseco, a publishing company, is suing the streaming service for the use of the above mentioned phrase. Chooseco owns the rights to the Choose Your Own Adventure gamebook series, where (as the title says) readers make choices that determine the path of the main character.

The company not only has the rights to the books but also the phrase itself, meaning it can’t be used in movies, books, and other media. That’s where the issue with Netflix lies. In the suit, Chooseco explains that 20th Century Fox currently holds “an option contract” to develop a movie based on the books, and that Netflix was in negotiations with the company in 2016 to license the phrase, but nothing came out of that.

Chooseco also claims that Netflix has “benefited from its association” with their “iconic brand” and that the “grim content” of the movie “tarnishes Chooseco’s famous trademark”. They add that viewers have “already been confused about the brand’s association with the film” and that this will likely continue. Oh, and they’re seeking for, at least, $25 million in damages or Netflix’s profits, “whichever is greater”.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch – Courtesy of Netflix

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This is surprising but at the same it’s not. A big event like Bandersnatch couldn’t just follow its course without some drama in the mix — it just can’t happen like that. Also, this is not the first time Chooseco filed a lawsuit over the use of the phrase. In 2007, DaimlerChrysler got a piece of their anger when they claimed that Chrysler’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” advertising campaign for their Jeep Patriot infringed on Chooseco’s trademarks.

It’s hard to imagine a publishing company actively seeking and going after those who use a phrase as casual as that, but here we are. I doubt Netflix used the phrase intentionally and to benefit from the association to the books, in big part because Bandersnatch is aimed for a worldwide audience, and even though the books have their popularity, they are not known in every corner of the world. On that point, I don’t think there actually are people confused about a link between the books and the series. But hey, that’s just me.

Now we wait to know if these claims are valid or if Netflix has some counter-argument under their sleeve. Until then, and if you haven’t watched it yet, you can enjoy Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on Netflix and see which ending(s) you get.

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Netflix subscriber? Watch Black Mirror: Bandersnatch yet? Let the other scary streamers know what you think in the comment section below.