Many of us remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books that were popular during the ’80s and ’90s. Most people don’t realize just how wildly popular the series has been, though. The fact is that the series has sold more than 265 million copies worldwide. This means that the intellectual property associated with Choose Your Own Adventure has significant value. This is why the series’ publisher recently filed a trademark lawsuit against Netflix for its film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
The lawsuit claims that Netflix has confused audiences by drawing an association between its film and the Choose Your Own Adventure book series. The film is interactive in nature, allowing the viewer to choose which direction the plot moves during given points. There is even one scene in the film that references the book series. The book series’ publisher, Chooseco, states that Netflix sought a license but never received one. The lawsuit also claims that a cease and desist letter was sent to Netflix, but the film continues to stream online. Chooseco is seeking $25 million in damages.
Netflix has yet to respond to the lawsuit, but it avoided references to “choose your own adventure,” which may allow it to avoid liability. Also, Netflix may try to claim that it use of the trademark was fair, especially given its artistic nature and, arguably, that it was not explicitly misleading.
This case highlights the importance of policing intellectual property. This is especially true when it comes to trademarks. Those who fail to take legal action when their trademark is infringed upon may find themselves at risk of financial ruin. This occurs when a trademark is so ubiquitous that it has become generic in nature and therefore can no longer be protected. Many brands face this issue, and it is up to them to ensure that use of their marks are limited to those that refer to their goods or services. The use of effective licensing agreements can help ensure that intellectual property is adequately protected.