Naperville Business Lawyer Talks About Trademark Infringement Lawsuit Against Netflix

trademark, Naperville business law attorneyDepending upon the industry in which your company operates, you might need to be very careful to avoid violating existing trademarks and copyright protections. If you own a printing or publishing business, for example, you cannot sell or distribute any works without having the proper licensing rights in advance.

In my practice as a business law attorney, I have helped many clients obtain the appropriate licenses for the products they wish to sell. I have also worked with others in securing trademark and copyright protections for their intellectual property. It seems, however, that not all companies are as careful as they should be—not even the big ones. According to a federal lawsuit currently pending in Vermont, streaming giant Netflix is alleged to have violated the trademark of a popular children’s book series.

Groundbreaking Series Allegedly Broke the Law Too

In December 2018, Netflix released Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an immersive, interactive film that allows viewers to make selections at various points which affect the viewing experience. The film’s plot is what internet users often call “meta” in that it tells the story of a video game programmer who has developed a game based on a fictional book—a book that he refers to as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.

This is where the alleged problem lies. “Choose Your Own Adventure” is a series of books designed for children with titles dating back to 1978. There is little question that Bandersnatch intentionally referenced the book series, but according to Chooseco, the company behind the books, the reference is problematic on several levels. These concerns were formalized in a lawsuit filed in a Vermont federal court earlier this year.

Tarnished by “Grim Content”

Chooseco’s lawsuit alleges that the character calling the in-film book—which is also entitled Bandersnatch—a Choose Your Own Adventure story creates the implication that Bandersnatch is officially part of the 40-year-old series. The publisher took issue with the implication because of the film’s dark undertones and depictions of violence, murder, drug use, and other “grim content.” The lawsuit claims that the content of the movie “tarnishes Chooseco’s famous trademark.”

The complaint points out that Netflix began negotiations with the publisher in 2016 about licensing the Choose Your Own Adventure series. The two sides, however, never reached an agreement, Chooseco says, and Netflix was never given permission to use the name. In fact, Chooseco sent a cease-and-desist request to Netflix previously regarding the trademark being used in a children’s program distributed by the streaming service.

Netflix has refuted Chooseco’s claims, saying that the references did not create confusion among consumer, nor did they tarnish the brand. In a brief, the streaming service insists that viewers were fully aware that the dark story was an original creation of Netflix intended for adults rather than part of the Choose of Your Adventure series designed for children.

The lawsuit seeks $25 million in damages.

Speak With a DuPage County Intellectual Property Attorney

For more information about trademark protection and licensing rights for your company, contact an experienced Naperville business lawyer. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation at The Gierach Law Firm today.




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