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The creator of indie store itch.io has issued a warning to game developers, as Chooseco appear to be trying to take down anything using the 'choose your own adventure' phrase.

Not surprising it's happening though, Chooseco went after Netflix for using the same phrase with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Speaking on Twitter, itch.io founder Leaf Corcoran stated:

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:

In a follow up Twitter post, Corcoran mentioned the person issuing the notices on behalf of Chooseco has been "difficult" and it comes across like they're essentially trolling. This is what happens though, often too, there's legal trolls everywhere. Some companies are set up just to go around sending off trademark notices on junk. I find it completely ridiculous that any company can trademark something like 'choose your own adventure', it just seems crazy to even allow that.

Regardless of how insane it is that such a thing can happen, game developers do need to come together and come up with something else they can use instead. Perhaps someone can then protect it themselves on the basis that anyone can use it, much in the spirit of open source eh? Can you think of a fun phrase that would fit? Let's see what you've got in the comments.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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Frostysky 9 Dec, 2019
But at least from the example it seems it is not generally the phrase but specifically talking of a "choose your own adventure game" that is problematic. From the text one could understand that this is an official "choose your own adventure game" and with this I understand that this is a trademark issue.
vildravn 9 Dec, 2019
Quoting: NezchanIt's a pity that "Varytale" was already used by an interactive Fiction engine. That would have been a great genre term.

That really is a shame, that's an excellent term.
CFWhitman 9 Dec, 2019
To be honest, this sounds like a fairly legitimate claim to me. The "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of books was pretty popular in the eighties, and everyone knew that the phrase referred to a very specific series of books. That phrase did not exist in English before those books came out. Some competitors released similar material, but they had to use a different name.

With trademark claims like this one, the more specific the wording of the trademark is, the less specific its application has to be. It follows that the less specific the wording is, the more specific the application has to be. So a one generic word trademark, like "Apple" (not very specific), is only trademarkable in a very specific context. On the other hand a specifically worded clause such as "Choose Your Own Adventure" can have a wider latitude of application. If the company is still around trying to use the trademark, then they must try to enforce it.

On the other hand, Monster Cable has been trying to trademark the word "monster" in almost any context for several years now. Part of their effort seems to be nuisance lawsuits aimed at large companies that they offer convenient settlements for, which are less trouble than going to court. Their lawsuits are a real trademark travesty, and you wouldn't expect them to hold up for a minute if one of the companies sued (who aren't selling cables) actually took the trouble to take them to court rather than going for the expediency of the settlement.

However, the Life Is Good company has managed to trademark the phrase "Life is good" at least for use on t-shirts and coffee cups, even though the phrase seems to have been fairly common in English and been too generic to trademark before they started using it. That trademark seems ridiculous to me, but it has stood up. Compared to that trademark, "Choose Your Own Adventure" would seem to be obviously legitimate.


Last edited by CFWhitman on 9 December 2019 at 10:18 pm UTC
LibertyPaulM 9 Dec, 2019
Someone needs to do a Gnome Foundation and fight this nonsense in a court because they will only keep doing it and it will get worse
denyasis 9 Dec, 2019
Just wait until you get a trademark notice for using a trademarked colour.

And yes, you can trademark a colour.
hagabaka 9 Dec, 2019
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Quoting: CFWhitmanTo be honest, this sounds like a fairly legitimate claim to me. The "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of books was pretty popular in the eighties, and everyone knew that the phrase referred to a very specific series of books. That phrase did not exist in English before those books came out. Some competitors released similar material, but they had to use a different name.
The thing is, the ability to trademark some words isn't related to whether you "invented" or popularized those words. Otherwise Apple couldn't be a trademark. So I don't think this adds to the legitimacy of the claim.


Last edited by hagabaka on 9 December 2019 at 10:21 pm UTC
CFWhitman 9 Dec, 2019
Quoting: hagabaka
Quoting: CFWhitmanTo be honest, this sounds like a fairly legitimate claim to me. The "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of books was pretty popular in the eighties, and everyone knew that the phrase referred to a very specific series of books. That phrase did not exist in English before those books came out. Some competitors released similar material, but they had to use a different name.
The thing is, the ability to trademark some words isn't related to whether you "invented" or popularized those words. Otherwise Apple couldn't be a trademark. So I don't think this adds to the legitimacy of the claim.

There are several factors involved, but originality is a big one. If another company had already sold a line of computers they referred to as "Apple" computers, then Apple couldn't have trademarked their name.* As I explained before, the more original the trademark is, the wider a scope it can cover. The less original it is, the narrower the scope it must be limited to, and it always must be original to its scope. So yes, originality is a factor in trademark cases.

*Apple actually did have a lawsuit on its hands when they created the Apple Music service, because Apple Records existed before Apple Computers.
Salvatos 9 Dec, 2019
People who make CYOA-like books and their derivative digital versions have already come up with a variety of non-infringing terms for them. Off the top of my head, there’s gamebook, adventure book, interactive fiction/story/adventure/novel, choose your own ending/story/path...

The CYOA company is probably just angry because unlike Kleenex and others, a lot of people don’t even realize that it’s a brand and not a generic term, so they don’t get as much promotional value from other companies keeping the term alive.
Nezchan 10 Dec, 2019
Quoting: SalvatosPeople who make CYOA-like books and their derivative digital versions have already come up with a variety of non-infringing terms for them. Off the top of my head, there’s gamebook, adventure book, interactive fiction/story/adventure/novel, choose your own ending/story/path...

The CYOA company is probably just angry because unlike Kleenex and others, a lot of people don’t even realize that it’s a brand and not a generic term, so they don’t get as much promotional value from other companies keeping the term alive.

Keep in mind too that the lawsuits and threatened lawsuits are pretty recent. The books themselves were published back in the 1970s and 80s, and it wasn't until about 2003 that the original author started a company to re-publish them and make new ones that it became an issue. Notably with a lawsuit against a car company for using the phrase "Choose Your Adventure" in its advertising.

All that makes it look like something a bit more shady than due diligence.
sarmad 10 Dec, 2019
Oh wait, you can actually trademark the English language itself? Nice

*prepares paperwork to trademark key English phrases and force all Americans to speak German instead*
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