Cyber Sex Toys and Patent Infringement – Sex Patents IV
Zu Technologies, a non-practising entity, has recently filed patent infringement suits against KickStarter and seven makers of sex toys having haptic features. The patent in the suit relates to a device and method for interactive virtual control of sexual aids using digital computer networks. The patent is popularly referred to as Teledildonics Patent as it relates to electronic sex toys that can be controlled by computing devices. In addition to KickStarter, the suit was filed against omingle, Holland Haptics, Vibease, Winzz, Frixion, Internet Services, and WMM.
Zu claimed in the suit that by manufacturing, selling and offering for sale, sex toys that can be remotely controlled, and by funding such toys, the defendants were liable for willful patent infringement. The patent was earlier held by HasSex, and was recently acquired by Zu. After filing the suit, Zu made an offer to KickStarter to settle. But, KickStarter refused and decided to proceed with the case in Court. Noting KickStarter’s intention to fight the case, Zu decided to withdraw the case against KickStarter. However, the suits against other defendants have not been withdrawn by Zu, and it seems that there is a sex patent war in store.
Interestingly, one of the claims of the patent is so broadly drafted that it covers any kind of sexual communication over the internet. One scholar argues that the patent covers a skype call, where a couple have an intimate conversation followed by independent action. Will Zu go after individuals, who have internet phone sex? Unlikely, but you never know with patent fanatics, who believe that by owning patents, one can control anything and everything.
Here is the abstract of the patent for your reference:
Method and device for interactive virtual control of sexual aids using digital computer networks
An interactive virtual sexual stimulation system has one or more user interfaces. Each user interface generally comprises a computer having an input device, video camera, and transmitter. The transmitter is used to interface the computer with one or more sexual stimulation devices, which are also located at the user interface. In accordance with the preferred embodiment, a person at a first user interface controls the stimulation device(s) located at a second user interface. The first and second user interfaces may be connected, for instance, through a web site on the Internet. In another embodiment, a person at a user interface may interact with a pre-recorded video feed. The invention is implemented by software that is stored at the computer of the user interface, or at a web site accessed through the Internet.