Photography Against A White Background Patent Given To Amazon

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is well known for making crazy decisions when it comes to issuing patents and trademarks. You would think that the USPTO would learn from past mistakes, but it doesn’t look like that has happened just yet. On March 18th, the USPTO granted a patent to Amazon for photographing people and products against a white background. No, we aren’t kidding. Here’s a photo of Amazon’s new photography concept (US Patent 8,676,045), which looks like every photo studio ever made.

white-background-photo-patent

The patent grants Amazon sole rights to “Studio Arrangement”, and lists in intricate detail how you can take an image on a white background using arrangements of lights, background materials, and a camera. The patent is packed full of oddly specific details, from light source strength and positioning down to ISO settings, color temperatures and even f-stops. However, it also comes with some worryingly vague language as well. For example here are the steps to take a picture:

1. Activate rear light source
2. Activate front light source
3. Position subject on elevated platform
4. Initiate capture

What are the chances that Amazon will try to use this patent in court? We aren’t sure, but there is now another patent in Amazon’s existing portfolio and millions are breaking it right now! Could Amazon go after rival retailers to prevent them from shooting images on a white background? Wow! Amazon can now corner the market on taking pictures in front of a white background.

The US Patent Office needs to be gutted from the top down. Many believe that the patent office lowered standards to cope with backlog of pending patent applications. After President Obama appointed David Kappos to the patent office the allowance rate has shot through the roof. Hats off to the IP lawyers that slipped this one past the USPTO.

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  • dbhalling

    The stupidity of this article is overwhelming. Clearly the author does not know how to read a patent. First of all the purpose and the motivation are in this paragraph:

    Prior art solutions for achieving such a result for capturing images and/or video of objects set against a true white background include solutions that often involve some type of image retouching, post processing, “green screen” techniques, or other special effects and image and video manipulation to achieve the result of an object set against a true white background. Accordingly, as will be described herein, embodiments of the present disclosure provide a studio arrangement in which an object can be photographed and/or filmed, and the images and/or video captured by the camera achieve the effect noted above without any image manipulation due to the particular arrangements of the subject, camera, lighting and background.

    Second of all the claims are quite narrow – of course the author of this article either doesn’t know what claims are or how to read them, and most readers will be in the same position, so they can play fast and loose with the facts.

    1. A studio arrangement, comprising: a background comprising a white cyclorama; a front light source positioned in a longitudinal axis intersecting the background, the longitudinal axis further being substantially perpendicular to a surface of the white cyclorama; an image capture position located between the background and the front light source in the longitudinal axis, the image capture position comprising at least one image capture device equipped with an eighty-five millimeter lens, the at least one image capture device further configured with an ISO setting of about three hundred twenty and an f-stop value of about 5.6; an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background in the longitudinal axis, the front lightsource being directed toward a subject on the elevated platform; a first rear light source aimed at the background and positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis, the first rear light source positioned below a top surface of the elevated platform and oriented at an upward angle relative to a floor level; a second rear light source aimed at the background and positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis, the second rear light source positioned above the top surface of the elevated platform and oriented at a downward angle relative to the floor level; a third rear light source aimed at the background and positioned in a lateral axis intersecting the elevated platform and being substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis, the third rear light source further positioned adjacent to a side of the elevated platform; and a fourth rear light source aimed at the background and positioned in the lateral axis adjacent to an opposing side of the elevated platform relative to the third rear light source; wherein a top surface of the elevated platform reflectslight emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears white and a rear edge of the elevated platform is substantially imperceptible to the image capture device; and the first rear light source, the second rear light source, the third rear light source, and the fourth rear light source comprise a combined intensity greater than the front light source according to about a 10:3 ratio.

    In order to show that amazon should not have received this patent, you must show that each and every one of the elements and connections in the above referenced claim are show in the same arrangement. I doubt the author of this article can do so, in fact I don’t think he could read the claim well enough to know even where to start.

    This is just pure propaganda.

    • basroil

      “The stupidity of this article is overwhelming. Clearly the author does
      not know how to read a patent. First of all the purpose and the
      motivation are in this paragraph”

      Clearly you’ve never done product photography, there is NOTHING special about that setup, and practically any photographer has experimented with it at some time. And then they discover lightboxes and realize the setup is so much more expensive than a lightbox for anything under a cubic foot.

      • dbhalling

        Really, because you can read claims and you understand patent law? Let just test your knowledge, does a patent allow you to practice your invention? What could someone do to avoid infringing this patent?

        • basroil

          “Really, because you can read claims and you understand patent law?”

          I’m an engineer by trade, so I’m well aware of what patents are and how they work.

          “Let just test your knowledge, does a patent allow you to practice your
          invention? ”

          No actually. It lets you use your patented component, but that doesn’t mean that previously patented things are to be ignored. If someone patents the wheel and you patent an axle to connect two wheels, that doesn’t mean you can use your patent without first licensing the wheel!

          “What could someone do to avoid infringing this patent?”

          Question is: who HASN’T already “infringed” the patent before it’s conception? This patent doesn’t provide a “new” “invention”, since the technique has been around almost as long as flash photography!

        • dbhalling

          Being an engineer is not being a patent attorney. Just like being an electrical engineer does not mean you are prepared to build a chemical plant.

          No it would be easy to avoid this patent – you do not know how to read claims, which was my point. You have no idea what the claims cover, but your happy to give us your knee jerk ignorant opinion.

        • basroil

          “Being an engineer is not being a patent attorney.”

          No, but it does mean I have a vested interest in understanding patents.

          “No it would be easy to avoid this patent – you do not know how to read claims”

          The point is lost when people like you forget that you can’t patent common knowledge.

          And on top of that, the patent claims mean ANY setup with at least three lights (background, back, and front), a background, and a platform would be in violation. The limitations are vague due to avoiding very specific configurations and instead giving a range that comprises the bulk of modern photographic equipment. They have three main claims, first two of which are setup (industry standard 3 light w/ continuous background) and a third in camera use (which is what all cameras do), with 24 sub claims that add to possible changes covered in the patent, hidden claims that the equipment can be moved as necessary and lighting settings changed to lower values (bringing the claims to nearly infinity and limitations to none outside the first three claims).

          Also noted, is that their patent would also be invalid if read at face value because it’s impossible to take a photograph with the setup they claim to be a baseline in claim 26. iso 320 f5.6 with 4kW of lights would mean bright white photos. Even ISO 100 at f5.6 with 4kW of lights would require a room that’s maybe 1000sq ft to get the right distance and avoid bounce lights!

        • dbhalling

          “ANY setup with at least three lights (background, back, and front), a background, and a platform would be in violation.” NO

          This shows that you do not know how to read claims. I love it when people think they can spend 15 minutes reading a patent and they know more about than people who have spent several years working on something. Find the prior art or quit spreading propaganda.

        • basroil

          “Find the prior art or quit spreading propaganda.”

          I have about 500 photographs on my computer alone that are prior art…. EVERY photographer that does studio setups has at one time or another used this exact setup for taking photos. But because it’s common knowledge it’s never been considered anything but normal.

          “think they can spend 15 minutes reading a patent and they know more about than people who have spent several years working on something”

          I’ve been doing photography for a decade and have a full studio setup. A few years of my life is a bit more than 15 min!

        • dbhalling

          The stupidity of your comment knows no bounds

        • dbhalling

          Photographs cannot be prior art for this patent

        • basroil

          Photographs can in fact be prior art, as the photograph can demonstrate the setup was used.

          And I have a dozen photos of the setup itself too!

  • basroil

    As a photographer, I have plenty of prior art to absolutely crush this “patent”…

    Nowadays they can give away patents for clearly unpatentable things simply by paying enough cash to their lawyers…