PASADENA, Calif. — Another patent troll has arrived on the adult scene, filing half a dozen legal claims over the intellectual property used in the making of haptic toys.
Six companies that manufacture or have plans to produce touch-over-the-Internet devices have been hit in the past month with patent infringement lawsuits filed by a California company.
TZU Technologies LLC, which was assigned U.S. Patent No. 6,368,268 from its inventor, Warren Sandvick, filed the six suits against RealTouch, Comingle, Holland Haptics, Vibease, Frixion and Winzz.
Each of the suits claim that the companies willfully infringed on the patent by proceeding with the manufacture and sale of products, or the funding of them, after being aware of the patent.
The patent was filed in the late 1990s as “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 patent says. “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 website on the Internet. In another embodiment, a person at a user interface may interact with a prerecorded 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.”
Of the six makers, only one of the companies actually markets a device — Vibease currently sells a Bluetooth-controlled vibrator.
The five other manufacturers include male masturbation device RealTouch, which has marketed its device in previous years but hasn’t sold devices since January 2014; Comingle, which is developing a programmable dildo called the Mod and is taking pre-orders for its product; Frixion, which offers a software system for virtual sex but hasn't moved out of private beta; Winzz, which will offer the LovePalz vibrator, another product available for "pre-order"; and Holland Haptics, which is creating the virtual hand-holding Frebble, a Kickstarter-backed project (Kickstarter also is named to that company’s complaint).
RealTouch, which was marketed by AEBN, officially rolled out in 2008. The personal pleasure device combines a haptic device with encoded video to create an immersive experience for the user. The sleeve fitted with belts, jets, heating elements and other gadgetry fits over the penis and synchronizes sensations to the specially produced content.
But the teledildonic device was discontinued in 2014 after AEBN officials pointed to increasing licensing and manufacturing costs.
AEBN officials today called the lawsuit frivolous.
“It is our policy not to comment on pending litigation, however we believe this case is without merit,” an AEBN spokesman told XBIZ.
Daniel Cotman, the Pasadena, Calif., attorney representing TZU Technologies, defended the suits and told XBIZ that the patent is a valid property right that was obtained after it underwent a thorough examination at the U.S. Patent Office.
“In this case, the inventor Warren Sandvick had what he believes was an innovative idea and went through the trouble and expense of obtaining a patent,” Cotman said. “At the time he applied for the patent haptics was in its infancy and his concept was a pioneering idea that had applicability to more than just the adult industry.
“When Warren explored bringing the idea to market he found there were a lot of companies violating his patent which made it difficult if not impossible for him to bring the concept to market. When he could get no response from certain companies that were infringing his patent, he had to explore other options to enforce his patent rights."
Cotman noted that Sandvick felt he was “morally obligated” to enforce the patent since his company has license holders that have paid fees.