Amazon Receives Patent: Photographers Beware
Patents are important to protect relevant, unique inventions. However, as we have long reported, frivolous patent lawsuits can clog up the legal system and stifle innovation. Since the government grants patents so broad, it opens a gateway for hundred of companies to be sued for infringement. Perhaps this “patent trolling” is not always the case, but it can certainly become a Pandora’s Box. And this certainly seems to be the case with the recent patent Amazon received.
Photographers beware: the new patent is simply called “Studio Arrangement” and gives Amazon the exclusive right to photograph against a white background. It also details plans for specific lighting placement, a raised platform nine feet from the white backdrop, and several other lighting rigs.
While additional specifics are listed on the patent application, it raises the question of how this patent even came to be. White backgrounds and raised platforms have been a standard in photography. Also, can they sue someone for infringing this patent? And if so, how? When a photographer takes a shot against a white background, you cannot see their rigging, so enforcing this patent could prove to be difficult. Especially since someone could use a similar rigging, but change one of the elements just a little; for example, changing the size of the platform, solely to prevent an infringement.
Amazon initially filed for this patent in November of 2011, but this is not exactly a cutting-edge photographic innovation. The first thing that came to my mind was old Hollywood. A very similar setup was quite common on Hollywood sets and continues to be used in studios and stages. The technique Amazon’s patent describes as the “blow out” (to make the subject stand out from everything else), is nothing new. In addition to the techniques, the patent details the size of the lens, as well as, the ISO and f-stop settings. In essence what the government has allowed Amazon to do is patent the perfect shot. Unbelievable.
Photographers take heed, because Amazon may be coming to a studio near you, just to check your f-stop settings. Ridiculous.