We have to cancel the rest of the Mod Project.
First, let us all say that we are terribly sorry to the backers to whom we were unable to deliver, and the long delays experienced overall throughout this entire project. All of your support (and for endeavors like this we could not have asked for a more understanding helpful community) has been incredible, and no matter what, it’s led to many positive things. For instance this project helped us contribute many hardware, software, web, and mold-making innovations to the open-source community (Github here: https://github.com/Comingle/ , tutorials at http://www.comingle.io). Our experiences with this project involving open-source sex-tech also helped shine a light on some important issues standing in the way of sex-tech freedom.
Patents attacking Sex Tech
At the forefront, we got to lead a historic stand against some terrible patent trolls.
This terrible case, (that’s still going), feels like it will never disappear, and this sort of bullshit can take not only massive financial tolls, but extremely mental tolls as well. It’s difficult to keep working non-stop, every day, when there is a huge thing like an international lawsuit looming over you. Despite the droves of pre-existing evidence that invalidate this ridiculous patent, small companies like us would be bankrupted immediately by the flat court fees needed to simply defend oneself in such a case (~$30-$40,000, not including standard patent lawyer fees averaging over $1 million if we had not been able to secure an amazing pro-bono lawyer).
This is the leverage patent trolls use to try to extort money from people working to share and explore the new abilities technology can afford us. We were able to use our position as the small guy though to lead the first group to really stand up against this troll that has been rampaging through the sex-tech community for the past 2 decades. We managed to secure a pro-bono representation against these people and their thug-like tactics, and come to the aid of the other defendants of small-business sex-tech innovators like Vibease. This helps send a powerful message to the patent trolls (which are particularly rampant in the world of sex-tech), that the new pioneers of this field will not simply bow down to the billionaires locking up ideas. We have already cost the not-nice people at TZU more money in their own legal fees than they could have ever gotten from our tiny company.
I shouldn’t go into a full rant right now, but please, if you take away anything from this, the next time someone tries to tell you that “patents exist to spur innovation” this is a complete lie, and the total opposite of the truth. The true innovators that exist today are the ones out there exploring and pushing the limits of how we as humans can help each other and discover new experiences. They are not the people who try to lock up knowledge in order to make a quick buck.
Basic Problems in Sex Tech
It would be one thing if the trolls were the only problem in the world of innovative Sex-Tech, but unfortunately the field is hampered in several areas by backwards policies and cultural stigmas. Some just brief examples that we have had to deal with:
Some payment processors, web services (e.g. Mailchimp), funding sources (e.g. Kickstarter, Bolt), and manufacturing facilities have told us that they simply cannot work with us because we fall under the category of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock-and-Roll” (this is a direct quote from a potential investor, and kinda odd, because I’m sure they would fund rock-and-roll projects). We have been invited to and kicked out of art exhibitions and 2 Start-Up incubators.
Despite the American society’s general enthusiasm about “Entrepreneurship” and start-ups, once you enter the sex-tech game you start to learn how many opportunities are cut off for you. We have thoroughly probed the hidden walls surrounding Sex-tech, but hopefully our experience illuminates these barriers and lets us all start working at overcoming them.
In order to provide a small bit of consolation to our backers to whom we were unable to provide, we have met with some other companies who have agreed to give you all special offers.
Please remember that none of us are huge companies. We are the smallest (a couple of folks that turned our basement into an artisanal dildo factory), but even these other companies are no JimmyJane or Lelo. We are all just a handful of nice companies working to try to open up the world of sexual technology which has traditionally been quite locked up by a handful of massive corporations. Thus we are extremely grateful for Vibease and Mysteryvibe who stepped up out of their own kindness to give our backers special offers.
If you are one of the backers who was unable to receive their toy, email us at [email protected] and we will give you the codes described below.
From Vibease: (https://www.vibease.com/esthesia)
We would like to offer you a special code for Esthesia Smart Rabbit for $49.90 (Shipping within the States is $9.90, while international will be depending on the countries). The product ships in the middle of March.
From Mysteryvibe: (https://mysteryvibe.com/)
We would like to offer the backers a special code for 40% off our toys (which will cover our costs and shipping). The code will be activated on March 1.
We really understand that this sucks a lot. We all lost lots of time and money to this project. We are exhausted. We have spent 3 years of unpaid labor and tens of thousands of dollars of our own money working on this project, and we hit the point where it’s impossible for us to continue.
I hope that in some small way though, we have helped make the DIY community a bit less afraid of sex technology, and that the Sex-positive community is a bit more inspired to start tinkering and building their own new devices. (Also at least we got to help with sending dildos to those jerks in Oregon! Thanks, Sarah!)
Remember: sex is weird, but it’s nothing to be feared. Please treat each other nice, have great experiences with each other, and share the things you make so that we can all join in the fun.
Thanks for contributing to an extraordinary experience.
Andy and the team at Comingle
Then come to Europe. U.S. patents are not recognized here, and on this continent there is still a big market for smart sex toys…
Man, this is such sad news. I’m angry and frustrated FOR you all, not AT you all. If there were anything I could do to help, I’d happily do it.