A Vermont publisher claims Netflix’s interactive program “Bandersnatch” has cost them $25 million.
Chooseco, the Waitsfield-based company that publishes the “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels, filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday claiming Netflix has violated its trademark with “Bandersnatch,” a recent episode of its anthology series “Black Mirror.” The publisher is represented by former Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith.
“Bandersnatch,” uses a format similar to those of the books, allowing viewers to choose between actions taken by the characters — without necessarily knowing the outcome of those actions, shaping the story. The show references the gimmick by having the protagonist refer to a fictional book he is adapting into a video game as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel.
“Netflix has no license or authorization to use Chooseco’s trademark and ... used the mark willfully and intentionally to capitalize on viewers’ nostalgia for the original book series,” the complaint reads.
The complaint explains that Chooseco relies on that nostalgia itself, hoping to inspire adults with fond memories of the series to buy new books for their own children.
“The film’s dark and, at times, disturbing content dilutes the goodwill for and positive associations with Chooseco’s mark and tarnishes its product,” the complaint reads. “Nearly every narrative fork includes disturbing and violent imagery. ... Depending on the choices the viewer makes, it can include references to and depictions of a demonic presence, violent fighting, drug use, murder, mutilation of a corpse, decapitation, and other upsetting imagery.”
The complaint claims that Chooseco has already suffered from “reputational harm” due to “negative associations” of their brand with the Netflix show, and said a “conservative estimate” puts those damages at $25 million.
Chooseco was founded in 2003 by R.A. Montgomery, who wrote many of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels in the 1980s and took over the trademark after publisher Bantam Books allowed it to lapse.
The lawsuit says that Chooseco has printed more than 620,000 copies of the books in the last year, that a “Choose Your Own Adventure” board game released in June has sold more than 150,000 copies and that the publisher had a contract with Twentieth Century Fox to develop an interactive film series using the brand.
Chooseco sued DaimlerChrystler in 2007, claiming a Jeep ad campaign infringed on the “Choose Your Own Adventure” copyright. That case was settled out of court.
Netflix has until Feb. 1 to file a response.
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of the interactive program.