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November 25, 2020 |

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Netflix settles ‘Black Mirror’ lawsuit over interactive ‘Bandersnatch’ episode

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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Netflix has settled a long-running lawsuit over an Emmy-winning interactive episode from its Black Mirror series.

A US district court judge confirmed that the global streamer had reached a settlement with the plaintiff, who had tried to get the Black Mirror: Bandersnatch episode removed.

‘Choosing your own adventure’

The disagreement around the Charlie Brooker-created show – which was produced by Endemol Shine Group’s prodco House of Tomorrow, which Brooker founded but which he has since left – arose following a complaint from Chooseco LLC.

Chooseco has been using the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark since the 1980s and has sold more than 265 million books branded with the tag line. When announcing the lawsuit in January 2019, Chooseco said that 20th Century Fox had an exclusive options contract to develop a TV series based on the books and that Netflix had tried – and failed – to receive a licence.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

The episode of Black Mirror in question is based around a game developer who is obsessed with a book described as ‘choose your own adventure’, but one that does not contain the Chooseco branding. The similarity between the iconic book series and Bandersnatch was remarked upon by commentators, inspiring Chooseco to take action.

In response, Netflix initially argued that it could use the phrase in a First Amendment defense, but this was batted away by the judge. The streaming company then became more aggressive and sought to cancel the trademark, on the basis that it is so ubiquitous. This was also rebuffed.

Undisclosed settlement

Now, just shy of two years after Bandersnatch was released, the parties have reached an undisclosed settlement. The court confirmed that this was agreed to on the condition that the February 2020 opinion denying Netflix’s dismissal motion was vacated.

Despite the lawsuit, Netflix has continued to produce a number of choose your own adventure-style interactive titles, including a tongue-in-cheek survivalist series with Bear Grylls and 2020’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy Vs The Reverend.

While the Netflix disagreement appears to have been amicably settled by the relevant parties, the status of the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark is still murky from a legal perspective.

Chooseco has built up a reputation for defending the trademark against other companies, including targeting independent game creation platform itch.io.

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