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31st July

  Stupid patent of the month...


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Trolls Go After Sex Toy Manufacturers
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Electronic Frontier Foundation Recently, a company called Tzu Technologies, LLC began suing makers of sex toys for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,368,268 . This resulted in more than a few news stories (and probably a few snickers as well). But the case also shows how our broken patent system is preventing innovation in many spaces, including those we don't traditionally think about. Looking closely at the patent, and specifically at what Tzu Technologies actually claims to own, it is clear that this patent, regardless of its exciting subject matter, deserves to be called stupid.

Tzu Technologies' patent, titled Method and Device for Interactive Virtual Control of Sexual Aids Using Digital Computer Networks is a patent related to teledildonics . Essentially, computer controlled sex toys.

Tzu Technologies recently sued a bunch of small startups in the sex toy space, claiming they infringed this patent. Comingle, for example and according to their website, is a four-person team that is developing open-source sex technology. Also sued was Kickstarter, presumably for allowing another defendant, Holland Haptics, to raise money for their product the Freeble .

As this 1993 Chicago Tribune article shows, the idea of remotely stimulating a partner was nothing new in 1998 (the year the application for the patent was filed). Nor was it unknown how to do it. Howard Stern (in)famously engaged in some of his own teledildonics in the 1980s, that was later reenacted [NSFW] in his 1997 movie Private Parts .

Given this history, you might expect that, in 1998, patent applicants would need to come up with some new and non-obvious way of using a computer to control a sex toy. But like many patents that we have labeled Stupid, that's not what happened. Or at least, that's not what the inventors claimed .

Below is claim 8 of the patent, which Tzu Technologies seems to be asserting. This claim is ridiculously broad. Annotations, in bold, have been added to show just how broadly it can be read:

8. A stimulation system comprising:

[a] a hand-operable input device [a microphone] for generating a command signal [electrical signal] in response to an input [sound wave] received from a first user;

[b] a first user interface [the radio broadcast system] connected to said input device [the microphone] , said first user interface generating a control signal [radio waves] based upon the command signal [electrical signal] ;

[c] a second user interface [a radio] remotely located from said first user interface [the radio broadcast system] , said second user interface receiving the control signal [the radio waves] ; and,

[d] a stimulation device [a stereo speaker] receiving the control signal [the radio waves] from said second user interface [the radio] , said stimulation device imparting stimulation to a second user in response to the control signal [you get the idea] .

Ultimately, claim 8 of this patent is nothing more than the idea of teledildonics, dressed up in input devices signals and interfaces. That's what makes this patent, and these lawsuits, so frustrating. There was nothing novel, nonobvious, or even patentable about this claim. It never should have issued. Doing it with a computer (literally) does not make something patentable.

More and more, everyday items are incorporating software and networking technology. Unfortunately, that means more and more everyday items are at risk of being said to infringe overbroad, vague patents that never should have issued. As this patent shows, the problems with the patent system have the potential to impact many diverse fields, and until we find a way for small companies to quickly and efficiently shut down these patent trolls, we will continue to hurt innovators who are merely trying to make life more interesting.

 

21st July

 Updated: Stimulating Art...


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There's a new craze in Portland, Oregon as hundreds of dildos appear hanging from overhead cables
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dildoes portkand Hundreds of sex toys have been spotted hanging from power lines across a US city.

The white and bright orange dildos have appeared in recent days across Portland, Oregon, sparking laughter, blushes and a lot of photos.

So as to be able to throw them up and wrap them round cables, the phallic toys have been strung together in pairs.

Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement spokeswoman Lisa Leddy said the department had received numerous reports of the x-rated sights. A spokesman for public utility Portland General Electric said he did not believe the products posed a fire hazard.

Update: All is revealed

21st July 2015. See article from vice.com

The woman responsible for stringing up dildos all throughout Portland has finally explained herself. In an anonymous interview with VICE , she says that she and her friends wound up with over 10,000 defective dildos after a local sex shop realized they couldn't sell them. So they did the only thing they could think of doing with 10,000 dildos... they threw them all over the city's power lines. She said:

It had to be done. I have no idea why, but it had to, she says. Dick-tossing is an exercise in happiness. It was just a fun, hilarious thing to do.

 

19th July

  Jumpy driver...


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Rampant rabbit blamed for minor traffic shunt
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7 Function Gushing Rabbit Vibrator A woman caused a minor traffic accident recently because she was pleasuring herself with a sex toy. The woman, described as being in her 30s, was reportedly driving her Mini when she suddenly lurched forward and shunted a stationary van.

The driver of the van later explained that it was his first day on the job and when he was later called into the company office, based in Cirencester, he feared he was about to be fired.

However his bosses told him that he wasn't to blame as the incident had been caught on CCTV, and that the film had caught something... interesting. Woman crashes her car while pleasuring herself with a sex toy. The CCTV footage apparently showed the woman exit her vehicle holding a pink Rampant Rabbit sex toy and hurriedly doing up her trousers.

 

28th June

  Black Humour...

Having fun with the ISIS flag at London's gay pride event
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isis flag gay pride To the casual observer, the black flag with unfamiliar white symbols looked out of place among the colourful outfits and banners at London's gay pride march.

CNN certainly thought so, running photographs of the flag above a banner headline, saying: Isis flag spotted at gay pride event. The segment was billed as an exclusive and the network even lined up one of its top security analysts, Peter Bergen, to discuss its appearance.

However the flag was a spoof, with the apparent Arabic script actually being pictures of dildos, dongs and butt plugs.

Lucy Pawle, a CNN journalist, didn't spot the subtleties and went on air being surprised that no-one else had reacted to the flag.  She said:

This man dressed in black and white waving what appears to be a very bad mimicry of the Isis flag, but a clear attempt to mimic the Isis flag, the black and white flag with the distinctive lettering.

She also said that she had alerted the police to its presence.

The news clip has now been deleted.

 

27th June

  A pound for your thoughts...

Poundland stocks a couple of sex toys
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poundland logo Poundland is providing cheap thrills with cut-price his and hers sex toys on its shelves.

The budget retailer is selling two specific items - a five-inch Vibrating Bullet, which is the exact length of the average male penis, and a Vibrating Ring.

A Poundland spokeswoman said:

We can confirm that Poundland currently stocks The Bullet.

It is sold on the top shelf, out of the reach of children, within the health and beauty section and is not sold to anyone under the age of 18.

 

15th June

 Diary: The Institute of Sexology...

20th November 2014 to 20th September 2015. Studying the pioneers of the study of sex, London
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wellcome collection logo The Institute of Sexology
20 November 2014 to 20 September 2015
Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE

Wellcome Collection will explore the most publicly discussed of private acts with The Institute of Sexology , the first UK exhibition to bring together the pioneers of the study of sex. From Alfred Kinsey's complex coded questionnaires to Samoan jewellery to sex machines, the show investigates how the diverse research, methods and collections of sexologists have shaped our ever-evolving attitudes towards sexual behaviour and identity.

Featuring over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film, photography, medical artefacts and ethnography, the exhibition moves between pathologies of perversion and contested ideas of normality as sex is observed, analysed and questioned. This is the first exhibition in a £ 17.5million expansion of Wellcome Collection and occupies a new gallery dedicated to year-long shows. The Institute of Sexology will evolve during its run; new commissions, live events, discussions and performances within the gallery space will animate an exhibition designed around visitor contribution and reflective personal experience. The show will form part of a Sexology Season of activity across the country.

The exhibition follows key sexologists including Sigmund Freud, Marie Stopes, Alfred Kinsey, Wilhelm Reich, Magnus Hirschfeld, Margaret Mead, William Masters and Virginia Johnson and the team behind the present-day National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal). It traces the experiments and studies that lifted taboos in the pursuit of truths about sex and tells the remarkable personal stories of those whose questions made it a legitimate field for discussion and study. The show features works exploring sexual identity by artists including Zanele Muholi, John Stezaker, Sharon Hayes and Timothy Archibald. A new commission by Neil Bartlett will revisit the sex survey, celebrating and joining visitors with the hundreds of thousands of anonymous participants whose personal accounts underpin the study of sex.

The Institute of Sexology' is framed by named sites of research from labs to living rooms. The first section, The Library , highlights the systematic archiving and accumulation central to the their craft, including objects from Henry Wellcome's vast collection of erotica. Opening with the Nazi burning of archives amassed by Magnus Hirschfeld's Institut fu r Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin, 'The Library' explores how Hirschfeld's material on homosexuality, along with the library of sexual histories compiled by Havelock Ellis and the forensic legal cataloguing of sexual pathologies by Richard von Krafft-Ebing were assembled squarely against prevailing social codes.

The Consulting Room brings together unlikely bedfellows in Sigmund Freud and Marie Stopes who despite marked differences of approach and interest (Stopes warned of the harmful filthiness of psychoanalysis whilst campaigning for birth control and women's sexual rights) placed sex at the centre of their attempts to alleviate suffering and, through couch and clinic respectively, offered an intimate space of encounter which counselled sexual satisfaction as a key to human happiness. In Freud's psychoanalytic practice and Stopes' candid advice, the exhibition finds very different and influential paths towards freedom of sexual expression.

The work of Bronislaw Malinowski and Margaret Mead amongst Trobiand and Samoan peoples offered a striking and controversial corrective to the Victorian armchair anthropology which characterised these communities as primitive savages living in thrall to an impulsive nature. A section called The Tent explores the wide influence of Malinowski and Mead's conviction that the permissive sexual codes they encountered were an antidote to the deep-rooted anxieties attending sex in Western culture and served to highlight its repression of sex as a culturally determined experience.

The Classroom investigates Alfred Kinsey's journey from entomologist exploring the infinite individuality of gall wasps to obsessive compiler of sexual histories -- some 18,000 by his death in 1956. With extensive material from the Kinsey archive, the exhibition traces his revelation of sexual variety in mainstream post-war America, his lionising of data and empirical research and the explosive impact of his conclusions of sexual malleability at a time when sex was a barely mentionable subject.

The Lab points to the bespoke laboratory William Masters and Virginia Johnson secretly established at Washington University to observe and record hundreds of individuals having sex. Their measurements of real time physiology -- heart rate, lubrication, blood pressure, brain activity, organ size - during stimulation and orgasm, established the complexity and power of sexual experience, especially amongst women, and the exhibition explores how their findings and campaigns for gendered equality in climactic response fed into the zeitgeist of the 60's sexual revolution.

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