You Can Close The Studio, Amazon Patents Photographing On Seamless White

I am not really sure how to tag this other than a big #fail for the USPTO, or a huge Kudos for Amazon’s IP attorneys. In a patent simply called Studio arrangement Amazon took IP ownership on what we all call shooting against a seamless white backdrop.

amazon-seamless-white

The patent describes the arrangement of elements in the studio to make a product shot. it even details the F-stop, ISO value and focal length you need to use [bold text by me]:

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; …

Another part of the patent describes a table and some trivial lighting:

… an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background in the longitudinal axis, the front light source 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 reflects light 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.

amazon-seamless-white-03

If this all sounds too complex, the patent also describes the workflow in which you have to work in order to take the picture:

amazon-seamless-white-02

The patent number is 8,676,045B1 and you can read the entire boring text on USPTO, or just about any basic studio photography book.

Of course there is a reason for all that, and that is to take photos without any manipulation or green screen, as Amazon notes in the description of the patent:

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.

Now, I am not a patent attorney, but it seems that 1. there is plenty of prior art on this and 2. there is absolutely no way to enforce it. I just hope that the lawyers at amazon are happy with their retainers.

[USPTO via photographybay, Lighting Essentials, shootthecenterfold and countless emails]

  • http://twitter.com/NastyClamps Nasty Clamps

    Perhaps a worldwide “Amazon Patent Infringement Day” would be a good way to deal with this situation.

    • ext237

      Yes! +1 for this fantastic idea!

    • Fiftyseven

      My patent is for sideways view head portraits against a yellow background. So there.

  • https://www.facebook.com/joao.lamas.5 João Lamas

    Wtf?

    • https://www.facebook.com/prokopius.cz Honza Prokopius

      ^2!

  • https://www.facebook.com/bruno.couck Bruno Couck

    They specifically state 85mm lens… on a 4×5inch camera? Or a 4/3? This is just so crazy… Lets all share this nonsense.

    • yopyop

      My thoughts too. By itself, 85mm doesn’t mean anything.

      • Fri13

        It does. Lens has its physical properties and one of them is focal length. Depending from the camera where the lens is mounted can mean different ways it is possible to be used.

        Just for that reasons objectives have their real focal length encarved to them instead what the camera crop factor gets as angle of view. Just so you can calculate and use the lens as it is.

        • yopyop

          You missed the point of my comment. In a documentation such as a patent, or when you need to indicate the FOV of an image, giving only the focal lenght is not enough, because it also depends on the size of the sensor/surface placed in the focal spot.

    • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

      That means the patent is very narrow and poor quality. If you use a 75mm lens, you don’t infringe the patent.

      • bill

        That means its narrow – not necessarily poor quality – though it suggests they were getting around prior art and had something specific in mind with regards to that specific combination of parameters. I have no idea what that could be though. Sometimes after getting enough rejections an attorney will throw in enough details to make the patent valid, but too narrow and worthless, just to get it off of their plate and tell the client they got it issued.

        • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

          I agree with you. It looks like the patent agent just needed to meet a quota or deadline or something. I think people in this thread generally are freaking out about nothing.

  • https://www.facebook.com/florian.hartmann.7505 Florian Hartmann

    They want to, I don’t think this will be accepted. They haven’t patented it yet;)

    • Chris Pearson

      Are you sure? Looking at the USPTO link it seems approved. Specifically Filed date Nov. 9, 2011 and date of patent Mar. 18, 2014.

  • https://www.facebook.com/adnanwolf91 Adnan Phoenix Wolf

    What the hell? Oo

  • https://www.facebook.com/adnanwolf91 Adnan Phoenix Wolf

    What the hell? Oo

  • Batman

    Well … what can I say .. US of the fuckin America .. them guys think they are the world. How can you patent photographing on white seamless when you’re a fuckin bookstore ? How about I patent the mother of the Amazon CEO and start using her however I want to … USA … a nation who stole the land from the Indians, now wants to patent the whole world .. this is lame.. Come stop me using a white seamless in my country .. I wish you luck!

    • Mike

      No fence-related splinters in your backside then! This situation reminds me of when our own British Telecom (BT) discovered they owned the patent to hyperlinks but generously forgoed the collection of a royalty every time a click was made.

      • http://rebeccatun.tumblr.com/ rebecca

        is that true? where did you read about it?

      • glugglug

        BT hyperlink patent is invalid because Amazon already patented it in 1998.

        After Apple had hypercard in 1984….
        And Douglas Englebart demoed it in 1968.

    • Mycroft Holmes

      Before you get all indignant about blaming the US for everything stupid. France allowed somebody to copyright the Smiley Face! They own the rights. Now that’s almost as dumb as it gets.
      But Austrailia and GB have banned photos of a whole frickin’ 1200 foot mountain. It’s supposed to be sacred, which is why the aboriginal people leased it to the UK for a tourist attraction?
      I want to get a patent on the @ symbol, I think I can retire on a miniscule royality for each use in every email in the world.

      • T

        Could you please a) state what “mountain” you mean, b) point to the legal document detailing the banning of pictures of said “mountain”, c) point to the details of the lease you mention or, alternatively, d) STFU.

        Because your entire post reeks of ignorance and fail.

        • Oggy

          Uluru

        • bill

          God I love Sergey! “Under Australian law, namely the EPBC Act of 1999 and EPBC Regs 2000, fines in the thousands of dollars can be imposed upon commercial photographers who take pictures in the national park without a permit or who take pictures of the ‘wrong’ parts of the national park.”

          T – im gonna leave the rest of the work to you, ok?

          • T

            They’re stupid pair laws.

            But banning commercial photography is a different kettle of fish to banning photography. And Uluru is not a mountain. And Mycroft exaggerated it and went off on a whole bullshit tangent about leasing that just plain wasn’t true.

            And I’ll leave you to work out why I might have had a problem with that, OK?

          • bill

            Why would you imagine it is not a mountain? Of course it is – heres some help on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Mountains_of_the_Northern_Territory.

            Sergey also tells me – using that string I provided – that amateur photography is also illegal in some places of Uluru. Sure he ranted – this is the Internet afterall. But I will return to the point that your personal attack on him here said he failed, was ignorant, and should STFU. Yet the google tells me that every part of what he posted that I checked – much of what you asked for – is absolutely correct.

            If you and Mycroft have a running flame war I’ll apologize for not realizing that fact and simply step back.

  • http://www.tonybaldwin.me/ tony baldwin

    I’m going to hire a lawyer, and patent black text on a white background, both for printed works and internet web pages. Then I’m going to sue those MOFOs at Amazon for infringing my patent.

  • https://www.facebook.com/paula.geminbell Paula Gemin Bell

    huh?????

  • https://www.facebook.com/paula.geminbell Paula Gemin Bell

    huh?????

  • Cedric

    Patenting something has a cost. What interest does Amazon find by doing something like that ? I don’t understand. It isn’t April 1st anymore !

    • brian

      I think this patent has nothing to do with preventing anyone else from using studio lighting like theirs, and more to do with ensuring that any photogs they hire have a very specific setup to follow to maintain consistency of photos on their site.

      • matthewmaurice

        Can you say “slippery slope?” OK, so maybe Amazon is just patenting a, long-established, technique that they only intend to use as standard process. First of all, I’d ask why patent it if you don’t intend to stop other people from doing it. More importantly, what’s to stop some patent troll company from patenting Rembrandt lighting or some other technique and then sending every small photographer in the US a letter demanding $1000 for a non-exclusive license or they’ll sue? Granted they can’t sue everyone, but the guy they do sue will either lose or spend way more than $1000 winning. And even if that guy wins and get his legal fees paid, what will he have spent in time, aggregation, and lost business?

        • bill

          Rembrandt lighting is well known – here’s a useful link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rembrandt_lighting. I’ve asked a few times for an example – just one – of the claimed invention being well known prior to the patent application. Nobody has stepped up to the plate yet.

        • valzi

          “Slippery slope” is, by definition, a logical fallacy. It’s not really a term that one should use to describe an argument one believes is true.

          • Aname

            No, a slippery slope is an introduction to some concept in a limited form that will expand once introduced. For example, when Amazon the bookstore began to carry a non-book item, that was the slippery slope that led to it being a general merchandise company. It’s similar to the “nose of the camel”, and it’s usually used when arguing against someone’s desire to make some minor change.

            Imagine standing on the top of a child’s slide. It has been greased. You step just a little forward onto the sloping part. Oops, it’s slippery, and now you find yourself at the bottom. That one small movement forward led to a huge movement as a result — down the slippery slope.

            It has nothing to do with logical fallacies.

          • valzi

            You actually just described the fallacy. You didn’t disagree with me at all except for your last sentence.

          • Johnny Rojo

            What do you mean a logical fallacy? Do you have some special knowledge of English, or of logic?

          • valzi

            As I said, that’s the normal usage/definition. It doesn’t require special knowledge to know that.

            As to special knowledge, here are my qualifications, since you asked:
            1. I’ve read the claim in several textbooks, including Everything Is An Argument (which is a book about rhetoric focusing on argument and logic) and in Norton textbooks on writing.
            2. I teach college English classes, including several standard lessons on logic.

          • Johnny Rojo

            Well, I don’t want to engage in foolish on-line argument, but nowhere do I find that the term “slippery slope” is, by definition a logical fallacy.

            “All men are mortal. Rover is a dog,not a man. Therefore, Rover is not mortal.” That’s a logical fallacy.

          • valzi

            Search engines are much faster ways to handle this than asking people in a comment thread, so you know, but here are a few definitions of the term:

            http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/slippery-slope.html

            https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/slippery-slope

            http://www.fallacyfiles.org/slipslop.html

            The last one is the most detailed. They’re all correct, though. They all describe MatthewMaurice’s flawed argument.

          • Johnny Rojo

            We are talking two sides of the same thing. The ‘slippery slope’ is a type of argument that is often used fallaciously. But that type of argument is not, per se, fallacious. For example, when discrimination against Jews and other groups in early Nazi Germany was not opposed, it led to the racial purity laws and then led to, at the bottom of that slippery slope of prejudice or racism, the death camps. If you had said something like: “Slippery slope arguments are often fallacious,” I would have agreed with you and we’d not have had this discussion, which actually was a little interesting, at least for me. In any event, we avoided going down the slippery slope from disagreement to argument to ALL CAPS shouting and insults.

            ciao

          • valzi

            Excellent reply and good points! I disagree and would say that despite Nazi Germany’s slip down a slope, it would have still been fallacious to argue *ahead* of time that the slope had to be slipped upon.

          • Johnny Rojo

            I concede that it is also true that slippery slopes are more visible in hindsight.

      • Michael Chastain

        That’s ludicrous. A patent wouldn’t force their photogs to shoot in a certain way, and at any rate that’s a matter that’s addressed by a best practices document.

        Assuming I’m not missing something that’s actually innovative in this patent, the only charitable reasoning behind it would be they were trying to prevent anybody else from patenting it and using it against them; of course that only holds true if they don’t use it against anybody else.

      • ext237

        Sorry brian: You don’t use the arduous and expensive patent process to document corporate branding strategy. You document that with a Corporate Branding Strategy Document.

  • https://www.facebook.com/harry.steelman Harry Steelman

    Patent number has been issued, but with the large amount of prior art and published material it may not fly, but if not challenged who knows what our highly efficient government may do?

  • https://www.facebook.com/harry.steelman Harry Steelman

    Patent number has been issued, but with the large amount of prior art and published material it may not fly, but if not challenged who knows what our highly efficient government may do?

  • dave

    Fortunately it won’t affect me. I always shoot with an ISO of around 319.
    How can you patent such approximations?

    • Patrick Terrence Robinson

      OMG!!!! THAT IS FUNNY!!! ISO OF 319!!!! I’m dyin’ here!!! lol

    • Mike D

      Be glad they didn’t patent ranges…

      • CaptBill

        WAIT – - What??? They are trying to patent stoves too?

  • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

    I’m thinking of patenting a pose for photos. Position two people very closely together and have them smile. Then, take the photo.
    You better not try it or I’ll sue your ass.

    • http://marlonribunal.com/ Marlon Ribunal

      My patent on how one make the subject say “cheese” to make him smile is already pending. I just need my attorneys to work on the wording of the claim. Obviously, terms used in geometry will help a lot in this regard.

    • CiaranMacAoidh

      If you patent The Duckface you could happily sue people til the day you die.

  • https://www.facebook.com/Tuaussi Bob Simmons

    Following in the footsteps of Apple who successfully patented the shape of an icon.

  • https://www.facebook.com/Tuaussi Bob Simmons

    Following in the footsteps of Apple who successfully patented the shape of an icon.

  • https://www.facebook.com/john.wyliejr John Wylie Jr

    Shoot against grey ….use much light , it becomes white , patent avoided :)

    • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

      use F-Stop value of 5.8, patent avoided.

      • Tree

        Read it again, it expressly states that listed values should not be confused as absolute and thata reasonable range of all numbers provided should be assumed. That’s some serious bullshit right there.

  • Patrick Terrence Robinson

    GAD DAMMIT! I’m gonna patent the way light falls from the sun!!! LOL

    • Jim Macias

      I trademarked the alphabet. Everyone here owes me money.

      • Patrick Terrence Robinson

        DAMN YOU JIM! How much do I owe you? LOL

      • Mrui

        ノ プレブェム

        • Jim Macias

          あい あるそ とれどまーこ ざ じゃぱにず あるふぁべと。かたかな あんど ひらがな。(w)

  • Jason

    Looking forward to help bust it on Ask Patents, http://patents.stackexchange.com, one of the best places to help the USPTO shoot down stupid patents.

  • https://www.facebook.com/justin.akard Justin Akard

    wut the Fuk ever.

  • anna

    Im going to patent all letters of alphabet and dont you dare to use them again!! :)

  • ext237

    Well, if this holds up, it means we photogs can’t copy Apple’s lighting style anymore!

  • Jim Bernardi

    I’m going to patent the nude. I’m also going to completely ignore this.

  • http://rafaelmarquez.me/ Rafael Marquez

    This just tells me that it’s amazing the sort of things that you can patent. Doesn’t someone own the patent for the color blue? It reminds me of an old suit between AOL and I think Sony Pictures over the movie “You’ve got mail.” I recall the argument boiled down to not being able to express the concept of having mail without using the words “you,” “have” and “mail” or some such thing. Which reminds me, I need to file that patent for photographing on a black seemless blackground at ISO 200, using a 70-200mm lens.

  • Ron Clifford

    It’s not that this is un enforceable and ridiculous. It’s the beginning of a much bigger problem. this is a patent on a lighting technique, it’s what follows that is VERY VERY important. Start with the ridiculous and move up, via legal prescident to the tangible

  • Vicki Trusselli

    this is ludicrous and pure fascism.

    • bill

      Yes. It is exactly that. When fascism is wattered down to the point where it looks like my piss after drinking a pot of water. When fascism is trivialized and debased so that we can forget the nazis, and Mussolini, when we wish to forget absolutely everything that the word means and make it equal to Jeff Bezos getting a potentially valid but worthless patent. Pure fascism. We are all doomed.

  • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

    I think you don’t really understand how to read a patent. You are reading it somewhat backwards.

    They are not patenting all of the things listed in the claims. They are patenting the combination of all the things together at the same time. Every element of the claim must be present in order to infringe the patent. The more words in the claims, the more narrow the patent is. This claim is very long and very narrow.

    They are patenting the specific arrangement of the specific camera with the specific dimensions, and specific aspect ratio. For example, to not infringe this patent you simply need to use a F-stop value of 6 instead of 5.6 as they specify in the claims.

    I actually think this is a pretty shit patent.

    • The_Magic_M

      > For example, to not infringe this patent you simply need to use a F-stop value of 6 instead of 5.6 as they specify in the claims.

      … or to switch the lights on in a different order. ;)

    • Brian Owens

      “…to not infringe this patent you simply need to use a F-stop value of 6 instead of 5.6 as they specify in the claims.”
      Except that f/6 isn’t a common choice on most cameras. The standard f-stops are 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, etc.

      • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

        so use 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, or 8, or 16, or 22, etc. They didn’t claim those and therefore have no right over their use in this context.

        The point is: they specifically claimed an F-stop setting so they NOT claiming all the setting all the other settings.

        • Brian Owens

          But what if f/5.6 is the best choice for the particular subject?

          Amazon didn’t invent the lens aperture, they didn’t invent white seamless, they didn’t invent on-axis lighting…they didn’t invent and aren’t the first to use anything they’ve declared in this ludicrous patent.

          Maybe they did it to protect themselves against out-of-control patent trolls who might try to patent the method Amazon commonly uses, and then embroil Amazon in an extortion-by-lawsuit battle, but for the Patent Office to even issue a patent on this to anyone shows how stupid bureaucrats can be.

          • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

            I don’t think you really understand how patent claims work. This might help:
            http://www.driesengineering.com/Assets/Interpreting%20patent%20claims.pdf

            They didn’t invent any of the parts of the claimed subject matter, granted. They did however invent the unique combination of EVERY element of the claim in a way that is novel and unobvious. If you can prove otherwise, the patent is invalid and the United States Patent and Trademark Office would love to hear from you.

            Please keep in mind that EVERY SINGLE ELEMENT of the claim must be present for infringement to be found. If you just just 99% but not last 1%, you are not infringing. If you realize this, you will see that this is a very narrow patent.

          • Brian Owens

            “They did however invent the unique combination of EVERY element of the claim in a way that is novel and unobvious.”

            You’ve never worked in a studio, I take it. Novel? Not obvious? Hah!

          • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

            Valid Patents in the US are by definition “novel” and “unobvious”. If they are not novel or are obvious, they are not valid.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_35_of_the_United_States_Code#Patentability

            I challenge you to find the unique combination of elements presented in the patent in any publication written before November 9, 2011 (the priority date of the patent). If can be from any publication on earth in any language. Find it, and you win. The USPTO tried for 3 years and didn’t find anything.

          • Brian Owens

            You’re completely missing the point; you’re talking like a lawyer, not a photographer. The fact that the “exact” combination listed hasn’t been put in print doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been done, nor that there is something unique and novel about the general principles involved.

            If it’s such a “very narrow” patent, as you say, then what’s the point? This isn’t about the specifics of the patent; it’s about the principle. Granting a patent for something like this is just wrong. Period.

          • bill

            It is a patent on photography. In order to say anything meaningful you must talk a bit like both – otherwise you will stumble around looking foolish to the informed.

            How can you possibly say that granting this patent is “wrong. Period” if you are unwilling to engage in a discussion of what the patent actually claims and how patents work? Thats a bit like me insisting that shooting at 5.6 is essentially the same as shooting at 2.0 – I mean 2.0 and 5.6 are close numerically right?

          • bill

            Brian – you are right, they didn’t invent any of those elements. And they do not claim to have. Thats not required of a patent and never has been. The claimed to have invented the combination of all of the element found in claim 1 when used together in the way described.

            if f/5.6 happens to be the best choice for a particular subject that means that Amazon may in fact have come up with a new, innovative and *useful* idea – and thus though extremely narrow it may not be nearly as worthless as many of us (well, me at least) seem to think it is even if it is valid.

          • Brian Owens

            “if f/5.6 happens to be the best choice for a particular subject that means that Amazon may in fact have come up with a new, innovative and *useful* idea”
            That makes no sense whatsoever. If f/5.6 is the best choice for a particular subject that I am shooting, or have shot in the past, how does that mean that Amazon came up with something new? You’re displaying a lack of logic.

          • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

            Brian, What should be patented?

          • Brian Owens

            Things that are TRUELY unique and novel. Stringing together parts or processes in a way that leads to something that hasn’t been seen before would be an example. This is not that; shooting against a white BG using a key light above the camera axis with subject lighting shielded from causing flare by the use of flags, and using BG lights behind the subject stage where they won’t cast shadows is not new. If Amazon’s exact process down to the exact lens, aperture, ISO setting, etc. is patentable, then why shouldn’t every photographer who ever shoots against a white BG be given a patent for their exact implementation? The permutations are almost infinite, and the Patent Office would have to hire a full-time staff to do nothing else.

          • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

            The USPTO has over 10,000 employee validating patents on a full-time basis. There is a very well established system for determining the uniqueness and novelness of a patent stretching back over 200 years. The examiners at the USPTO are the most qualified people on earth to determine whether a patent is “TRUELY unique and novel”. We are not.

            ” If Amazon’s exact process down to the exact lens, aperture, ISO setting, etc. is patentable, then why shouldn’t every photographer who ever shoots against a white BG be given a patent for their exact implementation?”

            Because ZERO people did the exact method contained in the claims prior to November 9, 2011. If you can prove otherwise, the patent would be invalid.

          • Brian Owens

            Read again what I wrote. Let me rephrase it: Amazon got a patent for shooting with an 85mm lens at f/5.6, so why couldn’t I be given a patent for shooting with a 50mm lens at f/4, and you be given one for using a 35mm lens at f/8?
            Let me give another example: Anova developed a cooking device called an immersion circulator. Their implementation was unique enough compared to PolyScience’s version that they were granted a patent (or one is pending). All well and good. Now, let’s say I use the Anova device to make sous vide filet mignon, cooking it at 134.5 degrees for 58 minutes and 12 seconds. Should I be granted a patent because no one else has ever written about doing it that way? Existing cookbooks all talk about cooking it at, say, 135 degrees for 1 hour, so my steak is — by the Amazon model — unique and novel. Right? Wrong! It’s a medium rare steak!

          • bill

            Not really – I was typing too casually. If that full combination is in fact useful – not just the f/5.6 but the full combination – and there is something magic about 5.6 that makes it particularly attractive compared to other options – and for some reason nobody has used that full combination of all the element – then they have created a useful new idea – the premise is that you have not shot with all of those elements combined in the past. If the hypothetical fails because in real life you have – then the patent is invalid and worthless.

          • Andrew Odie

            The Patent is not specific as to f stop etc it states:
            “It should be noted that angles, dimensions, distances, settings,
            parameters, and other numerical data may or may not be expressed herein
            in a range format. It is to be understood that the numerical data is
            presented herein and used for
            convenience and brevity, and thus, should be interpreted in a flexible
            manner to include not only the numerical values explicitly recited as
            the only workable parameters, but also to include all the individual
            numerical values that can be employed in a
            studio arrangement 100 to achieve the desired effect discussed herein.”

    • Joanne

      So you are sure that an f-stop of 6 does not qualify as an f-stop of ‘about 5.6?’
      can someone give us a definition of the very specific legal term “about’?

  • Eve LeCrosse

    I’m going to patent the word “patent.”

  • Michael Holzinger

    I Just Laughing ….

  • Gallen_Dugall

    Once upon a time artistic processes could not be patented. I fully expect a patent on books with 90,000-120,000 words in them and an accompanying copyright of the word “novel”

    • bill

      A process for manufacturing an article, e.g. a photograph, has been patentable in the US since patents (which are in the constitution) have existed. Similarly design patent, which arguably contain artistic elements in some/many cases, have been patentable for a long time as well.

  • James

    They are probably sticking it to a shooter who used these exact parameters in doing work for them.

  • http://digitally-free.blogspot.com/ d.free

    I don’t think that you can even register a patent for something that already exists!

    • bill

      In principle you cannot thought it happens by mistake from time to time and technology can be rather complex. Do you have an example of somebody doing what is described in the claims prior to when the patent was filed? If so it will be trivial, and cheap, to have the patent invalidated.

  • InsideSource

    Oh my, a tech writer up in arms on a hobby-horse of a subject about which he or she knows nothing about. The operative part of a patent are the claims, and these are very narrow. If you don’t have every single one of these features you do not infringe. Take a deep breath, because it’s long:

    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 light source 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 reflects light 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.

    Signed, a patent atty without a dog in this fight.

    • Charliemopps

      Patent Attorney? I never thought there’d be a profession bellow “Attorney”… wow… To graduate did they make you strange kittens or stomp on puppies?

      • bill

        I know – its rather amazing when you run into something outside of your area of expertise and learn something new isn’t it? Next time try not to react to it by being such a bore. If you want to insult your new friend at least make the effort to be amusing.

        • Janet Rafferty

          ^ :)

          • @Neuralculture

            Claim is obvious, only an incredibly narrow interpretation of patent law (that has been thrown out by the Supreme Court before) allows for this to be non-obvious, in the sense that no one bothered to right down “Picz R Gudder wit Lights an ah White Sheet” in a scholary peer-reviewed paper or tech journal. Will not hold up.

            Silly business.

      • http://www.davesaunders.net/blog Dave Saunders

        Feel free to take a Patent Bar and see how that goes for ya.

    • FreeLuncheon

      I haven’t read a patent in years, but it looks like claim 2 is also an independent claim and much broader.

      • bill

        Claim 2 is indeed independent. It loses a number of numerical elements from claim 1 and adds in some other ones. Not being a photographer I can’t really say if it is broader in practice.

    • Johnny Rojo

      So in other words, Amazon’s highly paid patent lawyers spent at least dozens of dollars to patent something so freakishly specific as to be next to pointless. Where can I register a patent on sarcasm directed at Amazon.

      • A M

        amazon has already had the foresight to file that patent and your sarcastic remark puts you in violation.

      • bill

        The standard quoted cost for arriving at a patent is $15-$20k. There is nothing that I see in this case that would make that significantly cheaper than the norm, though Amazon has hight volume so they can probably arm wrestle out a low price from the firms they work with.

        • Jerry Davis

          Maybe they will get out of paying the fees the same way they get out of paying the sorry sellers on Amazon. Just keep promising the patent office percentage like a dollar a week of the $20,000, then before the week is up, put a hold on that first dollar and promise they will pay 85 cents the following week, but never actually paying out anything. I have no idea how they get away with their crap but my days of Amazon both as a buyer and a seller are done.

      • http://www.davesaunders.net/blog Dave Saunders

        Check out patent application 10/442,996. Filed in 1999, it described a very similar setup. Amazon was clearly trying to establish a defense against a potential troll.

    • http://www.preferredembodiment.com Reed Jessen

      Thank you for writing this. I am a bit frustrated reading many of the other comments in this thread.

    • http://www.saintchad.org/ Philo Janus

      How does this pass the non-obviousness test? A configuration of lights to take a photo on a seamless white background? Nothing here seems particularly inventive.

      • bill

        Philo – InsideSource *literally* just told you how it can be nonobvious. The patent does not claim simply “A configuration of lights to take a photo on a seamless white background”. It goes well beyond that. And you have to remember that the invention is not the sum of the elements but the specific combination and how arranged. Everybody knows about fstop and lights. Amazon didn’t claim using taking a photo with a white background using an fstop setting and some lights, for example, but a specific fstop and a specific arrangement of lights along with other details.

        For it to be obvious you need to show that the exact same claimed invention was known and used prior to the patent being filed – thus the claims were anticipated. Or you need to show prior art that had all of the elements of the claim and that a person of ordinary skill in the art would have known and been motivated (I’m speaking loosely here I realize) to combine those known elements to achieve exactly the claimed invention.

        I’ve read several blogs about how ridiculous this patent is – thus far nobody has shown evidence that it should be invalidated. A gut intuitive response to a summary of the topic does not serve to invalidate a specific and detailed claimed invention. Nor should it.

      • http://www.davesaunders.net/blog Dave Saunders

        I think you’re reading the wrong part of the patent. The disclosure and the figures are not what is granted protection. It’s the specific claims, listed under the section marked “claims.” They look very specific to me. Also, according to their prosecution history, they were initially rejected because of another application filed by someone in 1999.

    • Joanne

      So if they could get this patent, what is to stop them from then taking out a patent on shooting the same set up with a 50mm lense? Then the same set up at a different ISO? And seriously, without spending hours figuring out exactly what their complicated and confusing set up involves, how can I be sure I don’t accidentally duplicate it when I set up my white shot? Does an ISO setting of 400 fall into the ‘about’ an ISO setting of 320 category? Is an aperture of 4.5 “about” an aperture of 5.6 ?

  • Patent Litigator Dude

    You photographers should get together to fund a post-grant review of this. See http://www.uspto.gov/aia_implementation/faqs_post_grant_review.jsp.

    • bill

      Estimates are that will run about $500k. Of course it can always be done cheaper with less quality. Go for it.

  • John john

    The claims of the patent are extremely narrow. Stop freaking ou

    • http://z7photo.com/ Csaba

      No it’s not: “an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background, and at least one rear light source positioned between the elevated platform and the background”. Unlike the diagrams (which, by the way, is really nothing special) this covers pretty much every lighting setup shooting against white seamless. Oh, and without any rear light sources, depending on subject-background distance the background can be light-grey to completely black. However, Amazon’s claim that you need post-processing to get completely white background is also a blatant lie – you can find hundreds of tutorials on youtube about how to achieve completely white background in camera.

      • bill

        N, Csaba, you screwed the pooch on that. John said the “claims”. That is a specific element of the patent – and the only thing that matters for infringement. Here is claim 1 – its pretty damn narrow – and limits the scope of the invention. Four real lights. 5.6 f-stop, ISO 320, 10:3 light ratio. Not, in any way, “every lighting setup shooting against white seamless”.

        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 light source 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 reflects light 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.

        • Who Me

          OK, its set for ISO (ASA) 319, but what is the film actually rated at? They shooting ISO 25, ISO 100, ISO 400, or maybe some of that rare ISO 1600 film?

          • bill

            They appear not to have claimed the type of film used – I suspect they believe their approach equally applicable to digital and film cameras. From my recollection of the claims they have also not indicated which had should be used to activate the shutter.

  • Joe Cassara

    Who *cares* about the patent law and all of that peripheral pseudo-intellectual BS? They’re not going after every photographer on the planet with this, so relax.

    The real scintillating issue is: WHAT IS AMAZON UP TO?

    • Joseph

      Who cares? Take Jeffy out inot the woods and nail his tongue to a tree.

  • raffy

    For copyrighting a photography technique that has been existing since time immemorial, thus long before even their own company existed, Amazon management must either be crazy sarcastic or stupid. The other meaning of intellectual copyright, beside its legal definition, if I may say, is a person’s first-to-think of or first to own an original idea. Any allegation of infringement shall always be deliberated in court to really establish copyright “true” ownership. In this case, what Amazon can only prove is they were the first one to register such of their own sarcastic claim, on paper, to the gullible US Patent and Trade Office.

    • bill

      They didn’t copyright it – they got a patent on it – the two are totally different. And here we have two comments in a row – one saying nobody shoots or would want to shoot that way and a second saying its been used since “time immemorial” (even thought it requires what, six lights?).

      • Raffy

        Oh, I see. I agree that patent and copyright are two different things. My own comprehension deceived me. What I saw at a glance with the prior art submitted points that the intellectual property is of a copyright and not a patent, describing or demonstrating an idea of positioning lighting paraphernalia to achieve a seamless white effect in photography. Thus it’s not the lighting machines that’s being patented here. I am only used to knowing that patentable property rights are on prototypical 3-d objects like machines or tools that can be either auto or manually operated on to serve its design purpose. Still, am not sure, let me check on this yet :) Thanks for pointing out.

        • bill

          Raffy – in principle of you describe how to position equipment to produce a product you are describing a method of manufacturing an article. That is patentable. If you describe and claim the actual positioining of equipment to make an article of sale that is an apparatus – the physical positioning of the various physical elements. Both approaches are available to be patented – of course you then need to consider the other requirements such as novelty, etc …

  • stormkite

    Thing is, who except for Amazon WANTS to shoot something this way? Sure, it’s a distinctive look, same way the Yugo is a distinctive car.

    • bill

      Stormkite – you obviously don’t know anything about photography. I know I don’t but the people here keep insisting that this exact claimed invention is used widely, appears in many text books, and is practiced by essentially any professional photographer.

      (pssst – i’m with you – just poking at them! :O) )

      • stormkite

        Nah. I’ve only been making a decent living with a camera for 26 years now (and at that I’d be the second one to tell you I know nothing at all about photography – my mentor being the first. ;>) )

        It’s just that many photographers know even less about patent law….

  • FreeWill

    They just wanted to sneak this one in to see if it would pass… now be ready for the rest of it to come. They have this all planned out.

  • MacK

    And now that I have read the claims – this is a pretty worthless patent. There are too many claim elements, that are too specific. To infringe this patent you would have to each and everything it says in its independent claims – and since they are very specific, that is unlikely. For Amazon to enforce the patent, it would have to be able to show that you did each thing described in the claims when taking a photo – from the photo – which would be ver very tough.

    It was granted because of the extreme specificity of the limitations – pull the file history from the USPTO, it’s free – and what you will see is that there was no written art cited against it (though something might be in a magazine the USPTO mostly looks at prior patents only) that had the very narrow set of elements in the claims so under USPTO rules it had to be granted (not something I would think justified.). But those tight elements is what makes it hard to enforce.

    • JoeCurious

      Finally someone who gets how to read a patent. Its such a narrow claim scope, it would be so easy to circumvent.

  • Cynthia

    This is an incredible PR blunder for Amazon… for example, after reading this, I will never again order ANY piece of photographic equipment from them.

  • neilvn

    Now, what would happen in the hypothetical scenario where Amazon sues a photographer … who then shows prior use? Wouldn’t all this just come undone anyway?

  • Johnny Rojo

    In future, all my photos will be taken against a white background. Even if I have to erect giant white billboards to do it. And they will all feature two people close together and smiling. How could I have missed that all these years?

  • Johnny Rojo

    By the way, I have a fantastic idea for patenting long chains of hydrocarbons to be turned shorter chained fuel for internal combustion engines. And has anybody seen what happens when you smack two hydrogen atoms together with an atom of oxygen? It’s wild!

  • Chris

    This is just the classic use of the infinity curve.
    The patent office really has gone mad, and this is one of the patents that should never have been granted, as it is neither new, nor is it novel, and it’s practiced by nearly anyone in the art, working professionally.

    • bill

      I’ve asked several times and gotten no answer so I’ll ask you Chris – which claim do you believe is practiced and can you show evidence of that use? If its practiced by nearly anyone in the art working professionally that won’t be hard, right?

      Color me highly skeptical.

      • Chris

        https://plus.google.com/photos/114649163475166144120/albums/6012280499028856321

        As you can see in the pictuire of the studio, i have the curve between the white wall and the floor.
        Placing strobes and/or modeling lights behind the subjects, removes shadows behind, but shows shadows forward (and this can be seen in the picture of the man and the child in the link above), showing that the light comes from behind, without having any soft or hard shadows in the background.
        You can see the curve between the wall and the floor, if you look at the wall on the right of the back wall.
        An extension of this, is to include the curve to the walls and ceiling, to get an omnicubicle without any sharp edges.

        The background is completely white, with no shadows.
        Only a slight light from the front, to light up the subjects.

        As you can see in the first picture, and compare that to the picture of my studio, the curve is there, the white wall is there, and so is the floor.

        As I said, this is nothing new, and these pictures are from 2009.
        I had this setup long before that, and it is a classic setup, either by hard fixture as i had, or by curtain/paper from a boom down on the floor.

        Would you take this as visual proof of the above being standard practice?

        There’s absolutely nothing new about this, and this is not worthy of a patent, as it more goes to show how broken the patent system is, than anything else.
        I would say that the top picture, fig 1 and 3 as shown in the article here, is all non-novel, and standard practice among product and portrait photograpers.

        • bill

          No. It fails in a fairly obvious manner. No court would consider it any sort of proof either. Lets look at claim 1, shall we? You’ve addressed the cyclorama. Did you shoot with an iso of 320 and an fstop of 5.6? It looks like there is one light source. The claim requires fight light sources – four rear and one forward – with the rear in a particular configuration. The sum of light from the rear sources combine to provide a ratio to the forward light source of 10:3.

          Thats what they patented – with some additional details in the claim – not shooting against a white background with no shadows. Not figure 1 and 3. Not shooting with a curve between the floor and the background. You need that specific combination and all of the elements – otherwise you don’t practice the claimed invention and if done before it was filed you do not invalidate it due to anticipation. Show all the elements and miss on one like perhaps the f-stop? Or two but get pretty close? Then you can argue its obvious. But people keep insisting that this exact technique was known, documented in books, and widely practiced, so I expect somebody will be able to show the exact combination of what is the actual claimed invention.

          The USPTO screws up – they get some things wrong – nobody can possibly know all of the prior art. But they are not nearly as stupid and incompetent as technical people assume they are. When you see a claim that sounds ridiculous – like Amazon patented shooting against a white background – you should start by assuming the person reading the patent and blogging about it screwed up and didn’t understand it rather than the USPTO screwed up. You will be right more often than not. Unless its a patent blog where you read the story.

          • Chris

            First figure, is the general setup of the innovation, which implies the curved wall (ref 102).

            Secondly, the picture i showed you, was not the studio set up for action, just to show the white background which is one of the key elements in the “invention”.

            When i shoot, i use more than one light source, usually 6 to 8, depending on what effects i want to achieve and what the scene comp is, sometimes even more, sometimes far less.
            Again, there is nothing unique in a certain number of lights or how you place them. Even in their setup, they will have to adjust the lighting, levels and position to match what it is they are to shoot, as no one single setting fits everything, just as a single size show will fit everyone.

            Thirdly, there is nothing unique about an f-stop of 5.6 together with shutter of 320, which is a pretty average setting giving a fairly medium DOF together with a fairly average to high ISO setting.

            The claimed “invention” is still complete and utter bullshit, as there is neither something new to it, nor is any of it novel.

            A certain combination of well-known and used settings, technologies and lighting approaches by just about the world of professional photographers is proof enough of this not being patent-worthy.

            Just because the USPTO allowed this one, doesn’t make it right.

            USPTO allowed a patent on a rectangle with rounded corners, which was neither novel nor unheard of, and was in common use. Fact is, it was later struck down on obviousness during a reexamination.

            This just goes to show that the system is seriously broken, and if you defend this patent for “novelty” or being a true “invention”, rather than first to file, with the USPTO completely disregarding common practice, that would make you more of a patent troll or even just a general troll, than anything.

            I have seen other do just what they do in this “invention” over many years, and I practice it myself for both product shoots, as well as portrait, as it gives quite nice effects depending on how you set up the light.

            As for the F-stop – go up one stop and increase the ISO one stop, and you have a net increase of DOF, but same light sensitivity. conversely the other way.

            The claim is a certain set of combinations, but while they do specify the f-stop and liso, they fail; to specify the light source, type, temperature and light level, leaving that to tweaking for the proper result, only presenting a certain f-stop/iso combo (and for most, the most commonly used one) all while leaving pretty much everything else open.

            If you actually care to read the patent, they even say themselves:

            “n ISO setting of about three hundred twenty and an f-stop value of about 5.6;”

            which is open to adjustment – it was not a fixed value as you claim.

            As for the light ratio, not even that is set at a fixed level, but is given as a guideline of 13:3

            ” intensity greater than the front light source according to about a 10:3 ratio. ”

            Claim 3 provides a guideline, rather than fixed ratio, again allowing for the normal tweaking to subject, instead of setting a fixed value.
            (in effect, patenting normal studio work – finding the best light position for the subject)

            Claims 6,7,8 matches my studio setup for shooting products, as the PMMA absorbs a certain amount of light, rather than bouncing reflections.

            Claim 10 – This is a nonsense claim, and completely depends on the studio size. 40kw of light in one smaller studio, might be completely inappropriate light level, while for a very large one, this may be too little. This is a completely meaningless value, unless you specify the exact size of the studio, distances, and light source used. A tungsten light of 40kw is not the same as a 40kw halogen light.

            “consuming about 40 kilowatts”

            Claim 11 – Again, similarity of light, common procedure, but the claim is open for any selection of your choice. This is non-novel, and essentially non-descriptive, leaving it open to application.

            “wherein the front light source, the first at least one rear light source and the second at least one rear light source are configured to emit light having a substantially similar color temperature.”

            Claim 13: Classic low-level front lighting, sitting outside the scene view, providing upwards low-level lighting, or if positioned above scene mid-level, providing either ceiling bounce base lighting, or if above, downwards high lighting (sky light simulation)

            “oriented at about an upward forty-five degree angle relative to the floor. ”

            Claim 18: This is a classical setup-up to get the lights out of the scene. absolutely nothing new or novel here.

            ” rear light source are oriented at about a forty-five degree angle relative to the longitudinal axis.”

            Only in claim 26 and 27, do they specify a fixed 320 and an approximate 5.6, using tungsten light, at appx 3200k (never mind this being mostly orange light, close to early sunrise/sunset colored light, rather than midday 5000k daylight light), which would give everything a yellow-orange tone when shot.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_temperature

            furthermore, 70kw light for a product shot?

            That’s hell of a lot of light for small to medium product sizes of the type that Amazon sells, and unless this is a very large studio used, this amount of light would blind the camera, any way you look at it, unless you use proper set of ND filters…

          • bill

            I’ll note you still have not shown a single example of anybody – including yourself – having used the claimed invention prior to when it was filed. If the claims were such obviously invalid bullshit – that would be easy. I would think.

          • Chris

            As you will not accept anything as proof, even if it walks up and slaps you in the face, such as the picture showing one part of the setup being implemented in an identical way, and the rest just being settings and placement of the lighting, I’ll just have to write you off as a the troll you are, and will not waste any more time on you, especially as you seem to be a fanboy protector of Amazon.

            Myself, I don’t care, as it’s a US patent, but it doesn’t make it any less wrong, and it’s not the first patent granted despite obviousness of prior art.

            They also misuse the word cyclorama, as their claims does not match their figures, and the text in the claims and background expresses a different setup from what a cyclorama is, and otherwise using generally vague wording in the patent, it is not an exact procedure, but a vague process description.

            Yes, I know how to read patents, and how they are designed and function. I am the inventor in two of them, which has been granted.

          • bill

            The picture didn’t show anything but 1 light, the iso, the fstop, the light ratio. Your picture literally showed 1 – only 1 – element of the claim. Who cares if you can convince me? You don’t know who I am – I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m simply telling you that your evidence wouldn’t convince any judge or jury in the land and doesn’t come remotely close. You’re frustrated – I get that – you don’t know much or anything about patents and it seems to you that Amazon has claimed something obvious and near and dear to your heart. I’m trying to tell you that the clear evidence is that they have not. They’ve claimed something very specific that appears to be so narrow as to be not infringed by much of anybody. And your response is to call me a “troll” and a “fanboy”. Based on what, beyond your frustration?

            Since you know about how to read patents then you realize that the inventor is allowed to act as their own lexicographer with regards to the terms of the claim, such as cyclorama, that the claims do not have to match the figures, and that the source of “vagueness” in the claims, i.e. “about”, is well accepted. Finally, we’ve been talking about claim 1 which, like most but not all of the other claims, is not a method at all. Not a procedure. And not a process. It is an apparatus. The difference is important and fundamental to understand when reading a US patent – but as an inventor you know that.

          • bill

            edit: that should be “it was missing the iso, the fstop, the light ratio, and other claim elements”.

  • Lisa

    This is ridiculous, I’ve been shooting white seamless for years. Not going to stop.

    • bill

      Good attitude! You shouldn’t have to. But, the only thing ridiculous here, is that people seem to actually believe that Amazon has claimed to have invented “shooting white seamless”. They have not.

  • David Greenfield

    this is a worthless article, and you should issue a correction as it is clearly incorrect.
    In a patent, the specification (which you quote) describes the background, state of the art, other alternatives, what’s patented, etc. It does not define what is patented. you could describe the entire history of the modern camera if you wanted in the specification.

    The only inventions that are patented are those described in the claims.

    for example, Claim 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 light source 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 reflects light 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.

    • heathkits

      Often a patent with slim novelty such as this is filed to be used as common reference to a number of related patents that build off of the common art. If filed, it will be published and that gives a number for reference.

    • heathkits

      The eventual granted patent may be very specific and likely on one of the subordinate claims with further restrictions.

      • bill

        The patent has already been issued (i.e. granted) – the claims are fixed – though there could be a child patent – in this case it seems unlikely.

    • heathkits

      They may also file such a patent as this, if for example, they have a lighting studio for capturing camera images of products and they want to deliberately place any potential art in the public domain – so as to prevent others from later obtaining a patent and restricting their freedom of use.

      • bill

        Good think – IBM has done this for a long time – but you just publish a tech report and avoid the legal and administrative costs (about $20k)

        • heathkits

          If you want to have your competition be aware of the publish of an idea – you file a hollow patent. If you want them to be UNAWARE, you publish it in an obscure journal and wait for them to make the first move after they have spent 20-50K filing a real patent.

          • bill

            If your competition is aware of a patent that you own and they are shown to infringe it they pay triple damages. It is for that reason that engineers at large companies are instructed to not read patents. I’m not sure what “hallow” means in the context of a patent – but if you want to make sure your competition doesn’t read it just file a patent app. I’d go with a provisional application if you really insisted on a filing then let it be abandoned – save on legal fees – what do you think?

          • heathkits

            A Provisional is only good for a year. It isn’t normally published. The only way that a competitor might find out about an abandoned provisional is if an examiner cites it.
            I will agree that provisional patent filings can be time bombs – because they don’t show up in a patent search and can grant spontaneously once a formal filing is created.
            For example, an inventor files a provisional and follows it within a year with a formal filing and accelerates examination because either the Inventor is over 65, fatally ill, or the idea had national defense or homeland security implications and grants within a year. That is 2 years after the provisional is filed – but 6 months before the formal would be published. Boom, suddenly something that your competitor has been developing for two years is your Intellectual property!

          • bill

            I believe that the provisional issues on the regular publication basis, in any case it most certainly is normally published – in fact I believe it must be published. I’ve seen many arguments made that an element in an issued patent was not present in the provisional and thus not due the earlier date – such arguments are common and hinge on reviewing the provisional as it appears in the file history.

          • heathkits

            a provisional is only an informal application – it is never examined or published. From the USPTO website – see 3rd line from bottom.
            37 C.F.R. 1.211(b) Publication of applications.
            Provisional applications under 35 U.S.C. 111(b) shall not be published, and design applications under 35 U.S.C. chapter 16 and reissue applications under 35 U.S.C. chapter 25 shall not be published under this section.

          • bill

            thanks heath – very interesting – i’ve looked at plenty of provisionals but as you suggest only in the context of establishing the accurate priority date for the claims in litigation – thanks

    • heathkits

      Feel glad that Amazon is filing patents – the USPTO is the only branch of this useless government that actually makes a profit on it’s efforts through fees.

  • FakeExposer

    FUCK AMERICA TO HELL, IT IS BABYLON AS FORETOLD. GET THE FUCK OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

  • vivkingswood

    I’m going to patent the word ‘patent’.

  • Oggy

    tosh

  • Oggy

    Maybe patent ‘usage of a lawyer’?

  • Sparky

    It appears to me this is just protecting something specific for Amazon. Not that they are after all variations or anything, just something that is specifically important to them. Wouldn’t be concerned.

  • tartanium

    I was shooting perfect white backgrounds before Jesus could grow a beard and if that’s offensive, before Mohammad (praise be upon him) could grow one either. The trick now is just to buy a green screen and make sure no one is wearing green. Perfect white backgrounds.

  • http://hellonifty.com .tif smith

    I’m going to patent how I get dressed in the morning: one leg at a time. Everyone, figure out something new or go naked.

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    So, if I am reading Amazon’s flowchart correctly, I can avoid infringing on their patent by turning the front lights on first?

    • vtchuck

      Your attempt at cleverness aside, patents are not enforced by flowcharts or drawings therein. When people discuss infringement, they are speaking of the claims of a patent.

      • bill

        His question actually is quite subtle. The last independent method claim does in fact refer to turning on the front light subsequent to referring to turning on the rear lights. However, even many experts who work with patents, fail to understand that the steps in a method claim need not occur in the order listed *unless* specifically stated. So unfortunately Ike that will not protect you – but it is a clever thought and one of the most reasoned responses I’ve seen.

  • Mars Bard

    It seems obvious that they are patenting a device with these features

  • David

    Amazon is trying to protect itself from other sellers ripping off its photographs. I’m not certain that is doable except maybe on a case-by-case basis, which would be very expensive. I certainly don’t blame them for wanting to protect their intellectual property, but this patent won’t work. I would have failed it on the basis of prior art. I don’t expect to see Amazon suing me over this photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/primeval/13940373668/in/photostream.

    • bill

      The patent won’t work for that – it addresses the apparatus and method of making the photo – not the photo – i assume they use stegnography if they want to protect the actual photos

  • GAAF

    i will patent breathe, and became rich

    • DJEB

      Sort of. I claimed ownership over the atmosphere over a decade ago.

  • DJEB

    If this isn’t The Onion, then a major overhaul/axing of IP law needs to take place.

  • John D. Roach

    Absurb! What is wrong with this world and organizations like Amazon? Awefully absurd!

  • Commenterio

    Uh-oh, someone tell Terry Richardson quick!

  • Sharon Watts

    my passport photo and
    drivers license is on a whit background
    dose that mean they can sue everyone with a passport and drivers license?

  • open mind

    Does it include passport photos taken against a white background? It seems business wants to own every conceivable way to anything.

  • http://www.rubyinrails.com/ Akshay Mohite

    I was wondering how this was not patented by anyone so long !

  • lowolf

    Well sure this Patent will be challenged or just why didn’t I think of doing this.

  • http://dropsprops.com/ drops

    Great info!

    I have heard photography backdrops and is that any difference with the actual photographs?

    Photography Backdrops examples are here – http://dropsprops.com/

  • gg

    I’m gonna patent the word asshole and sue Amazon for infringement

  • Milos Kovalevsky

    It doesn’t matter that Amazon patented something like this. However, I was trying to come up with the similar arrangement of lights myself and I’ve already seen a background lit from the rear below an elevated platform in theatres and operas… But what truly matters, is that more and more people and companies will follow the Amazon’s idea and patent other settings, and this really worries me, as this actually could kill off the photographic industry forever.

  • http://www.davesaunders.net/blog Dave Saunders

    Amazon was not the first to file a patent application around this specific approach. According to the prosecution history for their patent, 4 of their claims were rejected as being anticipated by Saigo et al in patent application publication 2003/0206735. Saigo first described the use of using a cyclorama as the background with a front light source, image capture position, elevated platform and at least one rear light source as the Amazon application also discloses. As a result they were forced to narrow their claims in order to gain this grant.

  • qmc

    While many cite the specificity of the patent, the last paragraph: “Many variations and modifications
    may be made to the above-described embodiment(s) without departing
    substantially from the spirit and principles of the disclosure. All such modifications and variations are intended to be included herein within the scope of this disclosure and protected
    by the following claims.” is a catch-all that could be abused by Amazon if they feel a company is infringing on their business. In the patent wars, might makes right.

  • F-Stop

    This is harmless. If I take an otherwise identical photograph and use f4 instead of f5.6, I am free and clear. I’m surprised they didn’t also specify the manufacturer and part number of the image sensor used in their camera.

  • http://www.donttouchbaby.com Cold Snap Studio

    This is ridiculous! While I don’t photograph anything on a “seamless white background”, I think this will hurt their customer base, starting right here.

  • Lacey
  • ITalk2Turkeys

    Just because you receive a patent doesn’t mean it doesn’t infringe on
    someone elses. That’s up to the courts and
    lawyers to decide. After you pay the fees and expenses of
    course. Here’s right from the ‘horses mouth’:

    “The Office has no jurisdiction over questions relating to
    infringement of patents. In examining applications for
    patent, no determination is made as to whether the
    invention sought to be patented infringes any prior
    patent. An improvement invention may be patentable, but it
    might infringe a prior unexpired patent for the invention
    improved upon, if there is one.”

    http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/infringe.htm

  • beancrisp

    FACT: There is no way this will ever hold up in court.

  • beancrisp

    I challenge anyone to logically explain how this patent is unique

  • beancrisp

    I challenge anyone to logically explain how you would be able to tell if a finished photograph used this process or not.
    FACT: You can’t so do not waste your time.

  • beancrisp

    This patent will get crushed the very first time they take it out for a test drive in the legal system.
    There is way too much prior art for way too long of a time and way too
    many companies with collectively much deeper pockets than Amazon that
    are threatened by it and will jump in to kill it. It will effectively be
    nuked from orbit the minute it is pulled out.

  • Richard Werkhoven

    This is fine,

    It looks like a process I should have patented (if only I ‘d seen a reason to).

    But this isn’t actually anything.

    I will be avoiding turning the cyc lights on first in any future studio shoot.

    I’ll have to read the claims to check if I should avoid 85mm lenses and/or ISO 320.

    I won’t be using 40kW of lighting for sure.

    Many patents I see being ridiculed are actually useful and the comments are missing the point. Not in this case.

  • patrick77

    Does Amazon have a single part number to order the entire Studio Arrangement, or do I need to order each of the items using individual part numbers?