The Decade in Sex Toys
One of my favourite things about a New Year is looking back at all that happened in the previous year. The close of a decade offers us the opportunity to look back at an entire 10 years. Here are some of the of the biggest changes and trends that I noticed over this decade in sex toys.
Law suits galore!
By 2010, sex toys had become big business in a way they had never before. That meant that companies had big stakes and were willing to spend big bucks to defend them.
The first big suit of note was between We Vibe (Standard Innovation) and Lelo. When the designers of We Vibe came out with the toy that changed the entire landscape of sex toys, they knew there would be copycats hot on their heels, so they did something that was rarely done in the sex toy world at the time, they patented several aspects of the toy. When Lelo came out with their 'Tiani', which looked and operated suspiciously like a We Vibe, Standard Innovation sued them. The two monsters of modern toy design went to war, spending mountains of money in the process. In the end, Lelo was banned from selling Tiani in several markets.
Another huge suit also involved We Vibe but this time they were on the receiving end. When Standard Innovation came out with their first blue tooth enabled toy, they didn't do their homework quite as thoroughly as they should have. They were collecting information from the users of the toys - their usernames, their habits for using the toy, which parts of the app they used. Even though SI claimed that they were never sharing personal information, they didn't go far enough in explaining to users what information they were collecting and how it would be used. After a class action suit was launched, Standard Innovation agreed to a $4 million payout to compensate users who's data was collected without their knowledge. They have since made many changes and fixes to the We Connect app and the privacy agreement.
Little Companies make Big Headway
Technological innovations made it possible for little companies with great ideas to get into the big sex toy market. Previous to 2010, the big toy makers had a stronghold on the market because they were the only ones that could afford to make prototypes and produce toys in large enough quantity to sell. 3D printing made producing prototypes a lot quicker and cheaper. Crowdfunding made it possible, not only to raise the money necessary to produce a toy, but also to communicate with a large number of people about new toy ideas. Small companies, and even individuals, were able to bypass the big toy companies and get toys to the public on their own. Autoblow and Dame created toys that turned out to be huge sellers without the help of the big four - and have now became strong companies in their own right.
Mergers, and Buyouts and Acquisitions, Oh My!
While lots of little companies came onto the scene, big companies set about buying them up. The biggest shark was Pipedreams - which set about picking up many higher end brands like Sir Richards and Jimmy Jane. While these buyouts are a big boon to the smaller companies that make big bank, they can be terrible for the toy buying public. The name of the brand is maintained, making it look as if they still exist, but often, as in the case of the Pipedream buyouts, the quality is nowhere near the standard of the original company.
At the end of the decade, We Vibe (Standard Innovation) shocked everyone in the industry by selling out to Womanizer, a German company with only one brand to its name. They kept on almost their entire North American staff and tasked them with redesigning the terribly tacky Womanizer line. The new toys are sleeker and more modern with better tech and higher quality materials. While we keep watching to see what happens with We Vibe toys, at this point, it seems in this case, the buyout may have been a good thing.
Copies, Rip-offs, and OutRight Fakes
Although copying sex toy ideas has been around pretty much as long as sex toys, in the counterfeit sex toys became a real issue. As soon as somebody comes up with a top quality product that develops a reputation and following, someone else tries to copy that product - and sex toys are no different. The Original Magic Wand is one of the most copied, with many companies producing vibes that look surprisingly like the iconic toy. Only the most discerning/knowledgeable customer would be able to tell the difference.
In addition to making outright forgeries, lower end companies worked hard to replicate the look and function of successful toys. Following the massive success of the Womanizer, many toy makers tried to copy the toy, But Womanizer's patent prevents anyone from using the exact same technology. So instead, copiers produce something that looks like, and claims to be, exactly like a Womanizer, but uses completely different technology - usually actual suction or just a simply strong vibrator. At best, these toys simply don't function the same way - at worst they are actually dangerous, causing abrasion, cuts, and bruising.
I believe this trend of copying and counterfeiting is only going to get worse - as there is a lot of money to be made on fakes. As more and more consumers look to buy their products on line, it will became more important than ever that they do their homework and understand fully what they are buying.
Stay tuned for part two of the biggest trends in sex toys over the last decade.