kink community comes of age - we're suing each other
I’ve always felt that the kink community in the United States was a microcosm of the rest of society. Our demographic is wildly diverse, coming in all shapes and sizes, from every possible political persuasion, all professions and socio-economic classes, as well as most any faith you might imagine.
It’s also true that we live in a very litigious society, lawsuits are more common than ever. According to Common Good, 15 million civil cases are filed in the U.S. every year. With that kind of volume to contend with, it should come as little surprise that as many as 80% of the world’s attorneys are also from the United States. Is it any wonder that we tell lots of lawyer jokes too?
Well, this is no joke, our country’s propensity of suing each other has carried over into the world of kink. Courthouse News Service reported earlier this month that a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Kink Academy against Kink University will continue forward. (Attorneys for Kink University had asked for dismissal.)
For folks who aren’t familiar, I’ll try to provide a quick dramatis personae of the players in this real-life drama:
- Kink Academy (aka Balance Studio) is the brainchild of owner Kali Williams (aka Princess Kali – aka Kali Kinke). Since 2009, kinkacademy.com has provided educational videos to it’s members on a wide variety of kink activities. Kali’s concept of “Erotication” sites for sexual education also includes PassionateU.com, targeted towards more a more general (less kinky) audience than the KinkAcademy.com site.
- Heather Norton – attorney for Balance Studio aka Kink Academy.
- Kink University is one part of the Kink.com empire owned by porn mogul Peter Acworth. Kink.com’s other offerings include Hogtied, Device Bondage, The Training of O, The Upper Floor, and many more. Starting in 1997 with hogtied.com, Acworth’s array of offerings grew over time to include a plethora of other sites, all under the kink.com banner. Kink University was added to Kink.com’s line-up in 2014.
- Julian Swanson – attorney for Cybernet Entertainment aka Kink.com.
U.S. District Judge Donna Ryu – from the Northern District of California. Judge Ryu ruled against Kink.com’s motion for dismissal on Thursday, June 8, 2017, allowing Kink Academy’s trademark infringement lawsuit to move forward.
The story goes that Kink.com started using KinkUniversity.com in 2014 and filed to trademark the term Kink University. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ultimately rejected Kink.com’s application. The office’s reasoning for refusing Kink.com’s request was the likelihood of confusion between “Kink Academy” and “Kink University.”
Things evolved from there . . .
The Kink University website is a pornography website that purports to offer educational information.from Complaint for Damages and Injuctive Relief
Regardless of the merits of the case, it could be said that lawsuits like this signal a new era for kink (the community not the websites – kink.com is no stranger to the courtroom).
To the best of my knowledge, the folks at flogger.com have never sued the people behind floggers.com. I’ve never heard that Victor of Snakewhip.com ever sued Nancy of Snake-Pit Leatherworks (or vice-versa) saying they had the prior claim on the term Snake.
But, one of Kink.com’s arguments for dismissal was it’s prior claim to senior exclusive rights on the word “kink”. How about that for an attorney joke?
DISCLAIMER – I’m a prior long term subscriber KinkAcademy.com. I’ve met Princess Kali at a local kink education event, and I own her book Enough To Make You Blush: Exploring Erotic Humiliation. I watched most every video KinkAcademy.com produced thru 2014, when my most recent subscription expires.
DISCLAIMER – I’m also a prior long term subscriber to Kink.com. While I’ve never met Mr. Acworth, I’ve met well-known Kink.com educator Stefanos on several occasions at local events. My personal collection of Kink.com videos totals more than 5 Terabytes in size, including every offering from Kink University.
DISCLAIMER – While it’s not mentioned in any of the news articles, and it certainly may not be at all relevant in a court of law, I thought it’s interesting to note that Princess Kali starred in a handful of early Kink.com productions Whipped Ass and Men in Pain.
DISCLAIMER – It should also be noted that Kink University released it’s final class/episode close to a year ago (as of this writing) on July 4, 2016. Once again, that may (or may not) be relevant to the court case. When production ceased, I assumed it was a consequence of the changing economics of producing adult entertainment. Now, I have to wonder if this lawsuit was part of the cause.
Because of my familiarity with all the parties involved, not to mention their own shared history, this feels like a family fight.
It’s my experience that family fights don’t go to court unless there’s real money involved.
If becoming big enough business for there to be lawsuits over trademark infringement means that an industry has arrived in the “big leagues”, then the world of kink and the kink community are now officially big business.
Welcome to BDSM in 2017!
Michael’s Annotated References
Judge Advances Trademark Claims Against Porn Site – by Maria Dinzeo at Courthouse News Service. My original source, it gives a nice summary of the case and arguments.
Kink Academy v. Kink University trademark complaint – and actual PDF of the original complaint submitted by attorney Heather Norton on behalf of her client Kink Academy. I found this with a google search as I began to research the issues surrounding the complaint against Kink.com / Kink University.
Kink Academy & Kink University Are Going to Court – by Mark Kernes at Adult Video News (AVN – trade magazine for the adult video industry.) This explains the case more clearly and in somewhat better detail. Sadly I only found this article after my own writing was 99% finished.