Netflix’s Bandersnatch is one of the biggest instances of interactive fiction hitting the mainstream in the last few years. Players can decide how the story proceeds in big and small ways and might make some older viewers remember the heyday of the Choose Your Own Adventure genre of books. Those usually youth-oriented books would give readers choices for how they want the narrative to proceed and task them with flipping to a specific page to pick up based on their choice. I had a bunch of Mario-themed ones and would then inevitably fail by reading them in the car and turning to the wrong page during a bumpy ride.
It turns out that the publisher behind the Choose Your Own Adventure books, the appropriately named Chooseco LLC., thinks that Netflix is trading on more than just nostalgia for that bygone era and has filed suit against the company for at least $25 million in damages.
According to the suit, Netflix actually tried to get the license for the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark to use in their programming, but ultimately the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement. Chooseco alleges that Netflix then simply went ahead and made the product without their branding, making money on their brand awareness. To illustrate this point, the plaintiff states that characters in the show even refer to “Choose Your Own Adventure” by name, meaning Netflix was clearly aware of the comparison.
“The misappropriation of our mark by Netflix presents an extreme challenge for a small independent publisher like Chooseco,” stated Shannon Gilligan, head of Chooseco and widow of Choose Your Own Adventure creator R.A. Montgomery. “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.”
While Netflix has yet to publicly comment on the lawsuit, it seems like Bandersnatch might end up becoming their own bumpy ride.