Netflix's Black Mirror: Bandersnatch has resulted in a massive lawsuit being brought against the streaming service. The movie was billed as a "choose your own adventure" tale, even though the company largely refrained from actually using that phrase in the marketing. However, Chooseco, the company that actually owns the trademark for the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, is now suing them for $25 million in damages.
The lawsuit was recently filed in a Vermont court and alleges that Netflix has violated their trademark and has caused confusion in the marketplace over Bandersnatch. What's more, Netflix actually tried to obtain a license for Choose Your Own Adventure in 2016, but 20th Century Fox currently holds the rights to develop an interactive series based on the books. Here's what Chooseco had to say in their filing.
"Chooseco and Netflix engaged in extensive negotiations that were ongoing for a number of years, but Netflix did not receive a license. 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."
Previously, Netflix had used the Choose Your Own Adventure branding for some of their children's programming. But with the Black Mirror movie, which was released on December 28, the beast took on a life of its own, as the release was wildly popular and discussed a great deal on social media. As a result, Chooseco is asking for $25 million in damages over the infringement, or the company's profits, whichever amount is greater. As of this writing, Netflix has yet to respond publicly to the claim.
Despite the lawsuit, Bandersnatch has proved to be a groundbreaking bit of programming. The story centers on several computer programmers who are making a game based on a novel that happens to be titled Bandersnatch. At one point during the movie, it is actually described as a "Choose Your Own Adventure book." Viewers are able to make choices as the story progresses that affects the story's overall outcome. While the mechanism seemed to aggravate certain Black Mirror fans, many became obsessed with it and, though Netflix rarely releases any sort of ratings information, it would seem the experiment has been a huge hit.
That said, this lawsuit could really put a damper on things, as $25 million, even for a company that burns through cash the way that Netflix does, is no small matter. The first Choose Your Own Adventure book was published in 1979 and was created by Edward Packard. The series was incredibly popular during the 1980s. Overall, there are 184 books with more than 250 million copies in print. This also isn't the first time that Chooseco has sued over their trademark. A decade ago, the company sued Chrysler over the use of the slogan "Choose your Adventure," which was being used to sell Jeeps at the time. This news was previously reported by The Hollywood Reporter.