U.S. News | Netflix Sued for Trademark Infringement over Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

BLACK MIRROR BANDERSNATCH
A scene from the "Bandersnatch" episode of Netflix's "Black Mirror." (Netflix)

On January 11, 2019, the publisher of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series (Chooseco LLC) filed a suit in a Vermont District Court, against Netflix, alleging that the film “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” infringes on its trademark.

Like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, the film, which was released on December 28, 2018, allows viewers to direct the lead character’s action, leading to a variety of possible endings.

“As in the CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE series, Bandersnatch viewers make choices to determine the plot and ending of the film. Rather than flop from one page to another, viewers click a button at the bottom of their screen using a mouse or other controller to select their choice,” the Complaint states.

Chooseco LLC alleges that Netflix deliberately exploited the brand awareness of its book series to launch the show.

“…In the first few minutes of the movie, the protagonist refers to a fictional book in the diegesis as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Netflix has no license or authorization to use Chooseco’s trademark and, upon information and believe, used the mark willfully and intentionally to capitalize on viewers’ nostalgia for the original book series from the 1980s and 1990s. The film’s dark and, at times, disturbing content dilutes the goodwill for and positive associations with Chooseco’s mark and tarnishes its products,” the Complaint states.

According to the Complaint, the series was widely read in the 1980s and 1990s, and book sales have remained strong, in excess of 265 million copies of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.

Chooseco alleges that beginning in 2016, Netflix actively pursued a license to use “Choose Your Own Adventure” in connection with films and interactive cartoons. Chooseco and Netflix engaged in extensive negotiations that were ongoing for a number of years, but Netflix did not receive a license from them.

The suit alleges that the film is dark and that the violent themes are too mature for the target audience of Chooseco’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. When the books were original published Chooseco states that they were read by children between seven to fourteen years old but that today it is estimated to be mostly read by persons in their twenties, thirties and forties.

They are seeking $25 million in damages.

Chooseco LLC v. Netflix, Inc.

Case Information:
Judge: William K Sessions
Court:Vermont District Court
Case Number:2:2019cv00008
Nature of SuitTrademark
CauseTrademark Infringement, Unfair Competition,
Dilution, False Designation of Origin
Case Filed: January 11, 2019
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About Ufuoma Akpotaire 235 Articles
Ufuoma is a Senior Editor and Director of Regulatory Policy at NLIPW. She assists clients in the protection of copyrights, trademarks and patents. She counsels clients regarding validity and infringement matters and has experience acting against the infringement of IP and addressing counterfeit issues. She holds a Masters degree (LL.M.) from Columbia Law School, New York and a law degree from the University of Nigeria (LL.B. Honors). She is admitted to practice law in Nigeria and in the State of New York. Ufuoma cut her teeth in the intellectual property practice groups of some of the largest law firms in Nigeria and has years of experience working with major non-profit organizations in New York. Email: uakpotaire@nlipw.com

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