Just one month after the release of its wildly successful interactive movie Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Netflix is now facing a multi-million dollar copyright lawsuit from the publisher of the classic "Choose Your Own Adventure" books who alleges they infringed on its trademarked format.
According to Forbes, Chooseco LLC, the company behind the interactive books, is suing Netflix for "willfully and intentionally" using its trademark form of storytelling "to capitalize on viewer's nostalgia for the original book series from the 1980s and 1990s." The Vermont-based company is also accusing Netflix of producing a film whose "content dilutes the goodwill for the positive associations with Chooseco's mark and tarnishes its products."
In the interactive film Bandersnatch, viewers are given the ability to make a variety of choices which drive the plot and result in a number of different endings. The main character spends the film adapting a Choose Your Own Adventure book called Bandersnatch into a videogame, but gradually becomes more and more aware that many of his daily decisions are being made for him. This ultimately results in him growing increasingly unstable as the movie progresses.
In its complaint filing, Chooseco cites the film's darker tones and disturbing content, such as "demonic presence, violent fighting, drug use, murder, mutilation of a corpse, decapitation, and other upsetting imagery," as having effectively tarnished their own reputation. The company is asking the court for injunctive relief to stop Netflix from using its trademark and is also seeking $25 million in damages.
The suit details an interaction between Netflix and Chooseco in 2016 in which the streaming service first began licensing negotiations to create "Choose Your Own Adventure" content. However, Chooseco insists Netflix was never granted a licensing agreement but went ahead with the project.
"We have received an unprecedented amount of outreach from people who believed we were associated with the creation of this film, including parents who were concerned that we had aligned the CYOA brand they knew and loved with content that surprised and offended them," Shannon Gilligan, co-founder and publisher of Chooseco, told NBC News in a statement.
Gilligan added that Netflix's "misappropriation" of the company's trademark is likely to result in damage to the publisher's reputation, particularly considered the grisly and dark tones of the Bandersnatch film.
"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," she said. "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."
Chooseco was founded in 2004 to re-release classic "Choose Your Own Adventure" books that had been previously published in the 1980s and 90s. Netflix has not yet publicly responded to the lawsuit or allegations.