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.
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.