Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
Attorney Maxine Lynn has found the crossroads of her intellectual property practice — it’s where sex and technology meet.
Adult entrepreneurs should be making sure to update their DMCA info and start preparing for the implementation of the Digital Economy Act in the U.K.
For, Lynn, an inventor and publisher as well, it’s a perfect match.
The Chicago lawyer got interested in “sex tech” after finding an “immense opportunity for innovation” relating to erotic products and services.
After several years focusing on adult entertainment, she’s made a bona fide niche practice of it with the law firm of Keohane & D’Alessandro PLLC, which has offices in Chicago and Albany, N.Y.
XBIZ recently sat down with Lynn for this Q&A interview after she was named WIA Woman of the Month.
XBIZ: What is your specialty in law?
Lynn: I’m an intellectual property attorney, focusing my practice on prosecution of patents for inventive technology, trademarks for business brands, and copyrights for creative materials like music and movies. I am an inventor, myself, having a patent on a sex toy and several other patent applications still pending. In 2016, I opened Unzipped Media Inc. featuring the “Unzipped Sex, Tech & the Law” blog, the “Sex Tech Patent IndeXXX” bulletin and “Unzipped The Business of Sex” show (podcast).
XBIZ: Tell me all about Unzipped Media and what it has to offer.
Lynn: Unzipped Media Inc. is the publishing company for my blog, podcast and patent news bulletin at SexTechLaw.com. The “Unzipped Sex, Tech & the Law” blog is written from my unique perspective as an intellectual property lawyer about legal issues at the crossroads of sex, technology and the law. I draw on my expertise in patent, trademark and copyright law with a touch of humor to break down the issues in an understandable and interesting way.
Supplementing the blog is the “Sex Tech Patent IndeXXX” bulletin, which features a compilation of information relating U.S. utility patents that appear to fall under the general umbrella of “sex tech.” The bulletin lists patents on sex toys, sex furniture and other technology meant to enhance sexual pleasure. It is a resource for reviewing the “latest and greatest” in the sex tech industry, as well as for monitoring associated trends.
In addition, the “Unzipped The Business of Sex” podcast will provide engaging discussions with top experts and insiders to create a lens into the adult industry from a business perspective.
It is a landscape peppered with truly unique challenges of taboo, law, ethics and, accordingly, day-to-day business. And this matters, of course, to the industry, but reaches far beyond because how the industry, government and society each deal with these issues greatly impacts the most intimate aspects of our lives — what we can have and cannot have, and what we can and cannot do … in the bedroom. The podcast is still in its early stages, but I expect it to be in full publication very soon.
XBIZ: How did you become interested in the adult entertainment industry?
Lynn: I became interested in the industry several years ago when I was invited to a sex toy party by a friend of mine. The consultant whipped out these catalogs full of all kinds of sexy devices.
With a background in technology, I saw an immense opportunity for innovation relating to those devices, which led me to file patent applications on my own inventions in the field. During my market research, I became fascinated with the multitude of legal issues, probably due to my experience as an IP attorney. As a business person, I thought about how these issues, as well as the unique nature of the adult industry, shape the way business is done.
Additionally, I was captivated simply as a human being with how the incorporation of high-tech elements into sex toys and pornography (for example, virtual reality capabilities) has the potential to greatly affect and change the human mind, body and interactions with others.
So, I started to share my research and thoughts with the world on the “Unzipped Sex, Tech & the Law” blog and “Sex Tech Patent IndeXXX” bulletin.
XBIZ: What are some of the hot legal issues that adult entrepreneurs should be concerned with in 2017?
Lynn: In the remaining half of 2017, adult entrepreneurs should be making sure to update their DMCA info and start preparing for the implementation of the Digital Economy Act in the U.K.
In the U.S., the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) provides a safe harbor for tube sites and the like for copyright infringements committed on their websites by third parties, for example, when a user posts or uploads an image or photo to a sharing site.
In order to receive the benefit of the safe harbor provisions in the law, the operator of the site must have and implement proper notice-and-takedown procedures, including an appointed designated agent to receive the applicable notices. Without these procedures, the operator of the website can be held liable for users uploading or sharing of content which violates the copyright of a third party.
Previously, a site owner just had to register a designated agent with the U.S. Copyright Office once and that registration was valid indefinitely. Now, a recent change to the law requires re-registration before end of 2017 to avoid losing protection, as well as every three years after that.
In the U.K., the Digital Economy Act is now law. The law requires age verification for porn sites accessed in the U.K. The government’s goal is to begin enforcement in April of 2018. Technical standards have not been developed as of yet; actual implementation will be sorted out in the fall, including the assignment of a regulator. The act gives the U.K. government sweeping powers to punish non-compliance. These powers include the ability to fine up to £250,000, block sites at the ISP level, and tell ancillary providers, such as those that process payments or facilitate advertising, to halt service to the offender (thereby starving the site of income).
Although binding only in the U.K., the law is important to website operators throughout the world since it is applicable to any website, wherever it may be hosted, if accessible in the U.K. Early preparation for compliance will be key in avoiding penalties.
XBIZ: Piracy is a big issue in this business. Infringers have systematically abused the DMCA safe-harbor provisions to garner protection for sites displaying copyrighted adult content without license. What can producers and distributors do best to protect their content?
Lynn: Producers must register copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office every three months for work published in the previous three months. This is extremely important, as without that federal registration, they will be limited to collecting actual losses which can be very difficult to prove.
On the other hand, with a federal registration, a producer or distributor can use the power of the federal courts to bring a lawsuit for statutory damages (amounts set by law), which are usually significantly higher than the actual losses.
XBIZ: Intellectual property rights are key for brands to survive and preserve their identities. Now that the high court has ruled on offensive or “obscene” trademarks in The Slant’s case, do you think we’ll see a flood of adult brands attempting to trademark their names?
Lynn: Yes, there is a ton of whitespace in that area. In the recent case relating to registration of the mark, “The Slants,” the U.S. Supreme Court declared the ban on registration of “disparaging” marks to be unconstitutional. A similar ban on “immoral” and scandalous” marks has typically prevented registration of adult-natured marks. Soon, however, another case, which deals directly with that statute, will be heard at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
It is highly likely that in light of the outcome of The Slants case, the ban on immoral and scandalous marks will also be lifted. At the trademark office, the early bird gets the worm, so people in the adult industry should file now. Basically, the first to file gets priority to a mark. If the ban is lifted, the marks will be registered first come, first serve. With a filing fee of only $275 (plus an attorney fee), it’s a pretty good bet to make.
XBIZ: In terms of popular appeal, what areas of adult entertainment will drive the industry five years from now and even 10 years from now?
Lynn: I think that VR in conjunction with teledildonics will drive the industry in the coming few years. New players are getting in and making it ultra-competitive. Competition drives innovation. And people are getting their first tastes of VR these days and seem to be adopting it. The technology will get better and better and bring sex toys into a completely new era.
Over time, I think sex dolls will increase in popularity. As artificial intelligence gives sex robots capabilities never before imagined possible, I believe that the demand for such products will rise.
We would need a crystal ball to really tell how these robots will impact our lives and society in the future, but that future is coming very, very soon. The market for these dolls is already reported to be growing steadily, and as the tech improves, and sex toys in general become more mainstream, sex robots may become typical to have at home. That “toy drawer” may wind up being replaced by a “toy closet!”
XBIZ: Can you tell me about the patent applications you’ve filed on your own inventions?
Lynn: My first application to issue is on a sex toy, i.e.: a dildo, that can be pre-programmed by the user to send a sexy (or other type of) message after usage. As a woman, I always say that unlike a man, a dildo can give you the physical satisfaction that comes with sex, but not the emotional feedback. Until now!
In an implementation, the user can select various parameters, such as phone number, timing of the message, and selection criteria for the content of the message. At the chosen time interval after, for example, turning off the device, a message, such as a text message, will be populated and sent to the user’s phone.
So, she might want a sexy message an hour after and a sweet message 24 hours later. Her message might say, “Hey baby, that was amazing — you were on fire tonight!” and the second one might say, “I really enjoyed our session last night, let’s do it again!” My hope is to eventually start my own sex toy company around this or another of my product ideas. Who’s in?
XBIZ: How important is it for you to attend adult entertainment industry tradeshows?
Lynn: I think it is very important. I’ve been going to tradeshows since I got into the industry. They are really the best way to keep up with what’s new and hot in the business. I meet the players, see the new tech and hear analysis of the latest new developments. Looking forward to XBIZ 2018 in Los Angeles!
XBIZ: What do your law associates think of your specialty?
Lynn: They think it sounds really intriguing. And they are sooooo right!
XBIZ: Outside of work, what do you like to do?
Lynn: I like to travel. I love little romantic inns in the winter and sitting by the ocean in the summer. Also, I am a musician and song writer. One of these days, I’ll get a tune out there for the world to hear. But until then, I’ll be sticking with development of sex toys!