It has been revealed by a US district court judge that almost two years after the release of interactive episode, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, released 28th December 2018, Netflix has reached an undisclosed settlement with plaintiff Chooseco LLC.
Chooseco are the current owners of the trade mark ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’, having sold 265 million books branded under the name since it began using it in the 1980s. Subsequently, 20th Century Fox have an exclusive options contract providing them with the rights to develop a TV series based on the Chooseco books. Netflix had attempted to obtain a license granting them the same rights and failed, yet, went forward with releasing the title regardless.
The Netflix ‘Bandersnatch’ episode in question, created by Charlie Brooker, focuses on a game developer’s fascination with a ‘choose your own adventure’ book, not sporting the Chooseco branding. These similarities provoked Chooseco to seek action to remove the episode from the global streaming site, having formally sought similar action defending the trade mark against game creation platform itch.io.
Netflix initially fought the disagreement claiming fair use under the US First amendment. When this was rejected by the court, they then fought to cancel the trade mark, arguing it was too much of a universal term for one company to have sole trade mark ownership of. This was also rejected, which perhaps is what prompted Netflix to settle the two-year dispute out of court, allowing the episode to remain on their streaming service worldwide.
However, this means that the legal perspective surrounding the disputed trade mark remains unclear. Furthermore, it has not prevented Netflix from producing further interactive, ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ shows, releasing ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend’ this year.
By Ellie King, student from Southampton Solent University