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Netflix asks court to cancel the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark

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If you think the term is generic, turn to page 113

Netflix has taken an aggressive step in its fight with publishing company Chooseco. It’s asking a court to cancel the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark, arguing that it’s a generic descriptor rather than a meaningful brand.

As The Hollywood Reporter noted earlier this week, Netflix filed a response to Chooseco’s lawsuit over Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive film released in late 2018. Netflix admits that it negotiated with Chooseco over licensing the Choose Your Own Adventure brand. But it denies that Bandersnatch — in which a game developer adapts a multiple choice ending book while losing his grip on reality — needs a license.

The response argues that Netflix didn’t stylistically copy the Choose Your Own Adventure book covers or overtly reference the series. But it also makes a counterclaim: that Chooseco can no longer control the term, the way that you can’t be sued for selling generic aspirin or a thermos. “In contemporary parlance, any situation that requires making a series of unguided choices, or that provides an opportunity to go back and re-make a series of choices that turned out badly, is referred to as a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure,’” it reads. It cites judges casually using the term in rulings, as well as a wealth of interactive fiction that’s described as “choose your own adventure” for its branching structure.

Chooseco (which controls a trademark originally owned by Bantam Books) has been trying to prevent this outcome for years. It’s filed suits against other big companies, including Chrysler, for using the phrase. But it’s also gone after small, obscure indie games that might dilute its trademark. Some publishers have gone to deliberately ridiculous extents to avoid using the term, like calling their book a “Select Your Own Choose-Venture” story.