Stephanie Berman invented a dildo to help lesbians get pregnant. Then two other companies stole her idea.

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Photo by Emily Berl

For fifteen years, inventor and entrepreneur Stephanie Berman (who is lovingly referred to as “Spermin” Berman) worked for her family’s business, which specialized in women’s reproductive health.  Specifically, they distributed products for artificial insemination and embryo transfers for couples trying to conceive.  So, it makes perfect sense that in 2012, she started her own company, Berman Innovations. That is when she invented POP Dildo, a “patented sex toy with specifically designed inner tubing embedded inside the shaft and an attached pump, intended for people to be able to mimic intercourse and ejaculation,” Berman explains.

After noticing the limited options for lesbian couples wanting to try to conceive at home,  she decided to create something that would allow the function needed but also something more fun and sexier than a turkey baster or needleless syringe (both which are commonly used).  It was then that she created their flagship product, The Semenette®.  “The Semenette helped my wife and I conceive our first child, which was also when I knew I had a product that could be very important for other couples like us.”

The Semenette officially launched in 2013 and was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.  So many different communities were reaching out and sharing how they had been waiting forever for a high-quality product that could mimic an ejaculation to come on the market, Berman explains. “In 2015, my company partnered with Fun Factory and we re-named and re-branded the product which is currently known as POP Dildo.  POP Dildo was responsible for helping my wife and I conceive our second child!  Currently, POP is being sold all over the world in retail stores and on our website (www.popdildo.com).”

But recently, things have taken an unfortunate turn. Berman began noticing not one, but two companies not only stealing her invention, but also claiming it as the “first” and “one and only” of its kind. AE spoke to Berman about her experience and what this means for her, her family, and her very personal invention.

Afterellen.com: I understand there are issues with people introducing almost exactly the same products and claiming them as “first” or “only” or “original.” Can you share those examples with readers?

Stephanie Berman: When I launched my product, people were quick to tell me that there were other squirting dildos on the market.  I was very aware of that, however, the differences between my product and the others were distinct.  Mine was the first product to be made with medical grade silicone and also the first to offer the technology of a removable and replaceable tubing in the toy.

There were no other products that offered the technology and quality that POP did.  But like all good things, when people see success, they want to follow suit and its unfortunately quite common to see knock offs.  I recently came across two products that were remarkably similar to mine and one that even went as far as to say they were the first product to be available for same-sex couples trying to conceive.

AE: How did you feel upon first discovering these?

SB: It’s obviously very disappointing to see a knock-off of your product.  As entrepreneurs, we dedicate our lives to seeing our vision come to a reality which often means making many sacrifices.  To see someone with perhaps more funding and resources swoop in and copy your product and try to undercut you is very disheartening.

In all honesty, I have learned to expect that knock-offs will happen but when this most recent one came out and was trying to claim to be the first to offer a product for same-sex couples trying to conceive was when I had to draw the line.

For me, it’s a respect thing.  I am all for healthy and fair competition but it’s very disrespectful to try and take credit for something someone else had clearly done long before.  We need to recognize those that came before us and respect that they have opened up a market that is now making it possible for other similar products to be available as well.

AE: What action, if any, have you taken?

SB: I reached out directly to the company that was trying to take credit for inventing the first product for same-sex couples to conceive (The Aid’n).  They responded and said they hadn’t done anything wrong but would reconsider their verbiage in any future media articles they did.

I also reached out to the media outlets that were providing articles about this product that contained inaccurate information.  So far, all of the articles about the Aid’n product were paid for by the company themselves and that made it impossible for the media outlets to remove the products from their websites.  That’s another reason why it’s so important to read the fine print and be careful when reading news on the internet!

AE: What responses, if any, have you received?

SB: I am consistently receiving emails of support and praise for our product and what we continue to try and do for the communities we work with.  I have always been very grateful and humbled for the support I receive from everyone.  It makes dealing with the copy cats a lot easier!

AE: What are you hoping these companies will do?

First off, I am hopeful that the media outlets will pay close attention to paid for content and will make sure to fact check before putting information out there for readers.  I am mostly hopeful that these copycat companies will be respectful of those other products that came before them.

AE: Why is it so important for people, especially women, to be respectful of the people who paved the way?

SB: As I had mentioned before, it’s a respect thing.  Especially in an industry that was once very male-dominated, it’s about women sticking together and raising each other up, not trying to work against one another.

I love seeing more and more women-owned and operated companies and women at the helm of engineering, but we also have to stay on a fair playing ground with one another.  Never pushing someone else down to get above them.  I think that’s why this company trying to stake claim to being the first product for lesbian couples trying to conceive was so hurtful. They told me in their response they were well aware of me and my product but completely disregarded that in their marketing and outreach.  I’d like to think there is room for us all but there’s a right and wrong way to get there.

AE: Anything else you’d like to share or say about your work, your product, these other companies, this issue, etc.?

SB: The positive response to POP continues to be incredible.  To keep up with that and what consumers are asking for, I am working very hard to bring the next version of POP to the market!  We appreciate everyone continuing to educate and spread the word about POP, the first patented technology of its kind to be available for folks that want to mimic an ejaculation and try to conceive.

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