Did You Know Choose Your Own Adventure Was a Trademark?

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Chooseco is a company that owns the “Choose Your Own Adventure” trademark. (It was formed in 2003 by series founder R. A. Montgomery to bring the 80s books back into print.) Which means that other people who want to do similar multi-threaded stories need to call them “pick your path” or something else.

Choose Your Own Adventure logo

This is relevant because at the end of 2018, Netflix put out an interactive movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, that it billed as “choose your own adventure”. And got sued over it. (It also won two Emmy Awards.)

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Chooseco alleged trademark infringement. According to TechCrunch,

Chooseco says Netflix “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.” …

Chooseco is seeking at least $25 million or Netflix’s profits from the film, whichever amount is the greatest.

The background is that Chooseco granted an option to 20th Century Fox — and if anyone can use the phrase, why should Fox pay for it? — and Netflix had previous licensing negotiations with Chooseco that didn’t work out. After trying to do a deal, if a company shrugs and says “we’ll do it anyway”, that doesn’t come across well.

Netflix struck back by asking for a cancellation of the trademark on the grounds it’s become generic. They say that it’s a common phrase used by the general public to describe anything like this — effectively, that it’s a genre now. And that’s the risk Chooseco faces, if you take on a company with a lot to lose and the money for lawyers.



One comment

  • James Schee

    Interesting, I remember reading the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and being frustrated at times by getting continuosly bad ends. Wasn’t there a comic CYOA genre book you picked up at the 1 SPX I went to, with you guys?

    Its an interesting case, is the saying a trademark or genre?

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