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Netflix Hit With Lawsuit Over ‘Bandersnatch’ by ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Book Publisher

Variety — Gene Maddaus

The publisher of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series sued Netflix in federal court on Friday, alleging that the film “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” infringes on its trademarks.

The film debuted last month on the streaming service. Like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, the film allows viewers to direct the character’s action, leading to a variety of possible endings.

Chooseco LLC, the Vermont-based publisher of the book series, alleges that Netflix deliberately exploited the brand awareness of its book series to launch the show. The “Choose Your Own Adventure” books were popular among young readers in the ’80s and ’90s, and publishers have sold 265 million copies, according to the suit, which seeks at least $25 million in damages.

According to the suit, Netflix sought a license to use the “Choose Your Own Adventure” trademark over the last couple of years. However, the negotiations never resulted in a deal. The suit also notes that 20th Century Fox recently optioned the rights to develop an interactive film series based on the books.

The suit notes that early in the film, the main character refers to the book series. The character plans to pitch a video game based on a book he is reading, and the character’s father asks about the book. “It’s a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book,” the character states.

The suit also contends that the film is violent and disturbing — including references to murder, decapitation, drug use, and the mutilation of a corpse — which is inappropriate for the young adult readers of the book series. The suit claims that the violent imagery tarnishes the “Choose Your Own Adventure” brand.

R.A. Montgomery, the original publisher and author of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, died in 2014. His widow, Shannon Gilligan, now leads the company. She issued a statement on Friday about the trademark suit, in which she sought to clarify that the film has nothing to do with the books, and that the film does not “adhere to the Choose Your Own Adventure rules about successful interactive storytelling.”

“The misappropriation of our mark by Netflix presents an extreme challenge for a small independent publisher like Chooseco,” she said. “The use of Choose Your Own Adventure in association with such graphic content is likely to cause significant damage, impacting our book sales and affecting our ability to work with licensing partners in the future. We would prefer not to resort to litigation, but given the damage that we will suffer as a result of the use of our mark we’ve been left with no other option.”

Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bandersnatch Cyoa by gmaddaus on Scribd