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Chooseco, the owner of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" trademark and the publisher behind the modern run of "Choose Your Own Adventure" gamebooks, has issued takedown notices to a number of indie games hosted on itch.io over their use of "Choose Your Own Adventure" in the descriptions for their games.
From Barcade to Kleenex, it’s not uncommon for trademarked product names to slip into the common lexicon and become informal ways to describe similar products. Though, as Chooseco’s trademark infringement notices highlight, adopting those terms leaves developers open to legal complications.
In the case of "Choose Your Own Adventure", the term is often informally used to describe the sorts of interactive stories where players are able to make choices that send a story down diverging paths both in video games, books, and other interactive media as a whole.
Itch.io founder Leaf Corcoran tweeted a word of warning to indie developers that the book publisher was exercising its legal rights as owner of the trademarked term, later telling The Verge that the platform is suspending flagged games to avoid issues with its web host in the meantime.
warning to any devs using the phrase "choose your own adventure" to describe their games, Chooseco is issuing takedown notices to @itchio for trademark infringement. Example game page they went after: pic.twitter.com/YG0JGUoHAA— leaf @ itch.io 🙌 (@moonscript) December 9, 2019
He tells the publication that this isn’t the first time Chooseco has issued takedown notices against games on itch.io, but notes that the platform typically tries to help the developers of affected games remove infringing content from their itchi.io pages when trademark infringement notices come into play.
While this latest wave of takedowns seems to be aimed at indie developers, Chooseco has taken similar actions against larger entities in the past. At the beginning of 2019 for instance, the company sued Netflix for trademark infringement for its use of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" brand within its interactive film Bandersnatch, accusing the massive entertainment company of purposefully using the brand's ‘80s roots to “capitalize on viewers' nostalgia.”
Update: A Chooseco representative notes in a statement to Gamasutra that takedowns of this nature come from a need to protect its trademark. While it is open to collaboration with developers on official projects, the representative notes that developers can avoid the issue by labeling their projects "interactive" rather than use the "Choose Your Own Adventure" phrase.
"We well know that lots of developers are inspired by the book series we publish, Choose Your Own Adventure. A quick web search for 'Choose Your Own Adventure Atari' will show you just how old our love of video games is! But we manage a trademark, and all the legal obligation that comes with that, even if a use is innocent."