While many New Yorkers are fans of Netflix’s critically acclaimed science-fiction series “Black Mirror”, the company is facing a lawsuit claiming that one Emmy-winning episode violated the trademark owned by the publisher of a series of popular books. Chooseco, the company that produces “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, sued Netflix, claiming the program’s “Bandersnatch” film violated its trademark. Netflix and Chooseco had previously been involved in licensing negotiations that fell apart after several years, and Netflix moved forward to release the episode. Netflix says that the phrase “choose your own adventure” has become generic, and the company is challenging the trademark altogether.
Netflix previously tried to have the case dismissed, but a federal judge found that Chooseco had a plausible claim that the streaming firm used the phrase “choose your own adventure” to benefit from the fame of the book publisher’s trademarks. The company said that the previous licensing negotiations were not in reference to the “Black Mirror” episode at issue in the lawsuit, although it admitted to engaging in those past discussions. Netflix is challenging the trademark claim again on multiple grounds, including asserting that there is no likelihood of confusion with Chooseco’s books.
However, the company also claims that the phrase “choose your own adventure” has evolved over the years to describe an entire generic category of plots and products rather than simply the books produced by Chooseco. It also argues that Chooseco did not create the concept of interactive-narrative fiction and that it cannot restrict the use of a term that has become a common part of pop-culture parlance.
For companies involved in creative media, protecting trademarks may be central to their business model. They can consult with an intellectual property attorney and discuss how they can protect their ideas and take action against infringement.