Interactive Life Forms, producers of the Fleshlight range of male masturbators have filed a law suit citing patent infringement against seven manufacturers, eleven distributors and seven retailers. They base their case on a claim that theire patent has been violated by other producing maturbators in the form of a “flashlight or thermos with elastomeric gel inside.” The original patent was issued in 1998.
Of course that can cover quite a range of products produced by any number of US, European and far eastern manufacturers. So far the two big names that have come to light are California Exotic Novelties and Pipe Dream Products.
It will be interesting to see how this case develops and what parts of the patent are deemed to have been infringed. If it is only the “elastomeric gel” in some sort of container which triggers a successful conviction that would close down a substantial proportion of the masturbator industry. Any number of similar but not identical products have been produced since the Fleshlight emerged and it looks like ILF do not see copying as the sincerest form of flattery.
What has already emerged however is that ILF do not necessarily want to take those cited to court having already stated that they would be willing to discuss an out of court settlement with the producers and distributors of each of the infringing devices. No doubt some of the best patent lawyers in the US will be enlisted to make judgements on this case before each of those named decides whether they should capitulate and pay royalties on every unit they sell, and indeed have already sold, or if they face ILF in court.
From a financial perspective ILF probably favour the out of court route as it would not only bring them an instant revenue stream but also mean that these alleged Fleshlight clones would be forced to stop production and increase their retail price making Fleshlights more competitive than their often high ticket price currently is.