The publisher of the Choose Your Own Adventure book franchise has filed a lawsuit against Netflix, claiming trademark infringement over Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which allows viewers to dictate the actions of the main character.
Chooseco is suing over the latest Black Mirror special released in late December, alleging that Netflix unlawfully used the publisher’s intellectual property and caused “reputational harm” to the tune of $25 million.
The Choose Your Own Adventure books, aimed at young children and adolescents, ask readers to pick the characters’ paths and often include separate, vastly different plots and endings within the same novel.
Bandersnatch follows a young programmer as he attempts to adapt a fictional book of the same title — which is explicitly called a Choose Your Own Adventure book in the film — into a video game.
Chooseco is accusing Netflix of including the direct reference to book series in order to “capitalize on viewers’ nostalgia” from the 1980s and 90s. But the publisher objects to the association with the violence in the movie, which includes the main character’s choice of whether to kill himself or his friend, whether to kill his father, and whether to bury a body whole or chop it into pieces.
“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,” the company’s co-founder and publisher, Shannon Gilligan, said in a statement.
Netflix and Chooseco engaged in extensive licensing discussions in early 2016, according to the lawsuit, but the streaming company never received permission to use the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark. It’s unclear if those conversations referenced Bandersnatch.
Fox owns the rights to make the books into movies.
The lawsuit, filed in Vermont federal court, alleges one count each of trademark infringement, trademark dilution, unfair competition, and unfair competition and false designation of origin.
Netflix did not immediately respond to request for comment.