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Choose Your Own Adventure's Owners Are Going After Some Indie Games

Illustration for article titled iChoose Your Own Adventures/i Owners Are Going After Some Indie Games

Chooseco, the company that owns the rights to the trademarked title Choose Your Own Adventure, has begun issuing takedown notices to indie games hosted on itch.io that have been using the term.

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While it’s understandable that folks could be thinking that Choose Your Own Adventure is more of a genre than a title, and/or that it’s a brand that has become synonymous with what it is (like Kleenex, or Band-Aid), Chooseco both owns the name and is still publishing books in the series that was probably at its peak in the ’80s and ’90s.

Because of that, the company has started issuing takedown notices to several itch.io games, some of which simply use “Choose your own adventure” in their description. Chooseco’s explanation, as provided to Gamasutra, is at least up-front about it:

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.

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That obligation, as is the case with so many fan projects and tributes on the internet, is that a trademark needs to be actively protected. Which is why Chooseco isn’t just going after indie games, but Netflix’s Black Mirror as well.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

jonathanponikvar
Jonathan Ponikvar

I would question whether context and intent come into play with this suit. If they’re not using “Choose Your Own Adventure” explicitly in the title of the game, but rather simply using it in an explanation of a game mechanic — i.e. “as the player, you have the capability to choose your own adventure within the game world” or similar language — I wouldn’t think they would have much of a case. A trademark filing shouldn’t grant ownership of all instances of that phrase in all contexts within the English language. The whole “Edge” debacle years ago established that pretty well.