Porn Guardian’s Peter Phinney Discusses Combating Counterfeit Sex Toys

Jul 8, 2014 10:30 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — Porn Guardian co-founder Peter Phinney says that the strategy of his organization’s new Product Piracy Pilot Program, launching this weekend at ANME in collaboration with the Free Speech Coalition, is to make it “uncomfortable and [financially] unproductive” for sellers of counterfeit merchandise.

Since 2009, Porn Guardian has been offering anti-piracy services to the content side of adult, removing bootleg DVDs from eBay, Amazon and iOffer.  

“Through that endeavor of policing the online sales and online auction sites for counterfeit goods, we began to see more and more instances of what looked like patent and trademark infringement of pleasure products — specifically toys whose brands we knew that appeared to be knocked off and offered as genuine brand name merchandise but at drastically reduced price points,” Phinney said. “When we looked into some examples, we found that sometimes a well known and carefully built brand name was being used to sell merchandise that was made offshore with inferior components and packaging, but sold as first quality.”

Through a partnership with the Free Speech Coalition, a pilot program was launched with Sportsheets and Screaming O in November. In January, the companies and the FSC reported on it with a seminar during the FSC Summit that was held at the W Hotel in conjunction with XBIZ 360.

The new division of Porn Guardian is dedicated to seeking out and exposing counterfeit merchandise, as well as removing it from online merchant platforms.  

“We've developed a system that uses human eyes on the screen, to locate infringements and counterfeiting, then reports these to the manufacturers as a ‘Daily Digest,’ so they can make a determination about how best to proceed in order to protect their interests,” Phinney said. “Occasionally we find a seller who has a wholesale distribution agreement with the manufacturer but is violating the terms of that agreement, occasionally we find a seller who is simply manufacturing knock-offs in a factory in China, and occasionally we find a seller who is using the brand and its reputation to sell merchandise that is not even offered by the company at all, but their trademark name is being used for its marketing value alone.”

Phinney told XBIZ that while will remove counterfeit items within hours of reporting them, is slow to come around.

“Amazon’s copyright department takes the position that they’re a retail platform only,” Phinney said. “They don’t want to get involved in disputes between manufacturers and sellers, even if it revolves around copyright issues. I think they’re still trying to find their way through that mine field. Once we find the right lever to pull I think we’ll solve that problem. I don’t think Amazon wants to get a reputation as the place to go buy knockoffs.”

Phinney says that the process for determining if a product is a knock-off includes scouring a manufacturer’s catalog and searching for differences in product details, packaging image quality and price, as well as where the product is shipping from.

“We support 35 independent infringement agents located across 17 time zones, searching for infringing and counterfeit products on offer illegally online,” he said. “There does not appear to be any permanent fix to this problem quite yet, but we have been able to effect much deeper searches and provide far earlier notification than manufacturers had been finding themselves with limited in-house resources. 

“Our goal is to grow this offering and ultimately provide a vehicle for manufacturers to consider collective action against some of the major players in trademark infringement and counterfeiting,” Phinney said. “As we grow our client base, we become a more powerful force by helping product creators work together to bring illicit activity into the daylight and curb illegal manufacturing to help the pleasure products side regain market share and protect their carefully crafted and supported brands.”

The subscription-based service is available to manufacturers for $450/month, even if it includes several brands. As part of its collaboration with the FSC, manufacturers who are members of the FSC can get the service for $250/month. The program goes live with its first paying clients in July 10.

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