amazon wins patent taking photos against a white background

heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,181Member
edited May 2014 in General Discussions
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Comments

  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0
    edited May 2014
    What a world, opened the road to patent against every single background color.
    Therefor we have governments of course.
    Post edited by [Deleted User] on
    Those who say it can't be done, should not interrupt those doing it!
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited May 2014
    This is nothing, compared to what the pharmaceuticals industry is up to
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    Not quite sure I understand why Amazon gains from this.
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,337Member
    Keeping other competitors from using their method of posting product photos.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 5,200Member
    Really? Are they kidding? Unbelievable. Think about all those tents people use for photo shots on eBay.
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  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,407Moderator
    Surely this has to be turned over? People have been shooting stuff on a white background longer than Amazon have even existed. What exact shade of white have they 'patented'? I smell BS.
    Always learning.
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member
    I just patented black. So I've got that part of the market cornered. :)
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,337Member
    edited May 2014
    I just patented every background colour, other than white and black. Suck it!
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    WTF? This is pure BS!
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  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    It's probably a defensive patent.

    I.e., not a patent filed because they intend to sue others -- but to deter others from suing them.
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    @PitchBlack

    Likelihood of confusion applies to trademarks, not patents.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,378Member
    edited May 2014
    With all due respect I think those of you who thought Amazon patented a white background are quite mistaken. Read the patent and look at the diagrams.

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-adv.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&S1=08676045&OS=PN/08676045&RS=PN/08676045

    No patent is granted for something obvious or in common usage. It has to be a unique device before it can be patented. In this case the device is an "arrangement" of objects and lights in certain way. The patent is quite specific. If you use those exact objects, arranged in that exact way with those exact lights you would violate Amazon's patent. Otherwise you don't. If this arrangement does indeed create a "unique look" than it can be patented. Apparently, the patent office thought it did. I would like to see some comparison photos.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    edited May 2014
    That's right PitchBlack.

    My opinion / speculation only on what probably happened:

    I think Amazon like many companies has a patent team, and an in-house patent program which awards employees who come up with patents. The reason is not only having additional patents in the portfolio, but a lot of jurisdictions will give incentives (tax breaks) based on R&D activities.

    In this case, a bunch of Amazon staff photographers are tasked to take hundreds if not thousands of routine product pictures each year. Through many trials and errors they found a specific arrangement which gives them good results without any post-processing. Not having to Photoshop saves them tons of hours. They are just doing this as part of their daily work.

    On a periodic basis, Amazon's patent team likely asks employees if they have done any work in recent past that required "problem solving". One of the photographers probably replied that they spent a lot of time coming up with this specific arrangement that works for them. Alternatively, one of the photographers might have contacted the patent team directly, hoping for an award.

    A consultant (lawyer) from the patent team then interviewed the photographers, and decided that the work they did -- i.e., the arrangement they came up with -- is patentable. They then created and filed a patent application, which the USPTO in all of their infinite wisdom granted.

    The patent team gets another patent for their quota. The photographers get their award (and maybe a year end bonus). Amazon possibly gets a (minuscule) tax break. And all of the hours the photographers worked on the arrangement get to be expensed.

    I speculate all this because I've had that task of interviewing employees for patentable ideas and other work which can be considered "research". Where I am in Canada, some companies are very aggressive in issuing patents because of a government tax credit incentive program called SR&ED. I believe the State of Washington, where Amazon is based from, has similar programs.
    Post edited by Ade on
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    edited May 2014
    I bet this all comes from something much simpler - like a photographer, buying items, stock shooting them and labeled with something referring to the "amazon way" and trying to sell the photos to Amazon or businesses that sell on amazon.

    OR

    Second possible occurrence is that someone started selling a "studio kit" or a book/manual/video that made claims that one could get the Amazon look.

    Either way Amazon could sue someone who made these claims to get their name off the product.

    Why do I think that? In the patent they are referring to 10 &12 Kilowatt lights, and even down to the materials of staging.

    I agree with what @donaldejose said, this is very, very specific set up. Down to the lights, kelvin temp, exact distances, material the stands and backgrounds are made of. This is something that is filed to target a very specific something else or someone who they want to stop.

    I think they want to get their name off of some product or service being sold as "the amazon way." If they went after anyone who used the generic set-up they would loose in court in a very short time - even if could make it that far.
    Post edited by TaoTeJared on
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  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    @TTJ

    Again there's confusion between patent and trademark.

    The Amazon name is already protected by trademark. A patent is not relevant to getting any names off any product.
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,200Member
    I've read enough to determine that this is nothing that most have to concern themselves with. Just as "there's more than 1 way to skin a cat" I think that this "Amazon" look can be attained in many ways without the specific setup that the patent details. Considering the creative aspect in photography what if all well known photographers out there tried this - to patent their methods so that you couldn't do exactly what they do to create their look. Insert snob factor there. There was a time when jazz musicians wouldn't dare teach you their techniques for fear that you'd go out and imitate their style and take away from thier business and popularity. That slowly changed over the years. Maybe that's the mindset here.
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  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    Could it be that the purpose of this is to prevent a photographer, who was contracted to Amazon to photograph their products, from quitting, forming their own business and using the "amazon" system for their own profit?

    But I agree with the other posters, this would be a hard thing to successfully prosecute in civil court.
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    Possible but doubtful, @ThomasHorton. There's no business case for Amazon to stop others from making pictures with seamless white background...

    Sometimes another use of patents is for marketing. E.g., if Amazon wants to provide a new product photography service to some of its 70,000+ suppliers & over 2 million merchants, they can now say that they have this wonderful patented process (implying some sort of superior quality). But, I doubt that also.
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    @TTJ

    Again there's confusion between patent and trademark.

    The Amazon name is already protected by trademark. A patent is not relevant to getting any names off any product.
    I wasn't confusing anything nor did I write anything about Amazon's name being an infringed trademark.

    My whole post is that they did NOT Patent shooing on a white background - they patented a whole process, parts, materials, settings, actions, etc. of the creation of their product images. It is akin to patenting any other process where things must be done a specific way.
    Could it be that the purpose of this is to prevent a photographer, who was contracted to Amazon to photograph their products, from quitting, forming their own business and using the "amazon" system for their own profit?

    But I agree with the other posters, this would be a hard thing to successfully prosecute in civil court.
    I willing to bet this or something very similar is what happened.

    My other guess is that this is a result where they have inside a contract agreement to sell products, that companies must use their studio services for images. I sure someone fought it, won due to the fact they could reasonably recreate the "look" that wasn't specifically laid out and didn't have to pay for the service. Now it is laid out specifically what must be done. 10,000 kw light is what keys me off. Those are not in abundance at your local hardware store nor are they cheap. It is too specific for such a generic result.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    My other guess is that this is a result where they have inside a contract agreement to sell products, that companies must use their studio services for images. I sure someone fought it, won due to the fact they could reasonably recreate the "look" that wasn't specifically laid out and didn't have to pay for the service. Now it is laid out specifically what must be done.
    I never thought of that. Interesting idea. Makes a lot of sense.

    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    Um, no, that doesn't make sense at all. A refresher on what patents are (and what they are not) might the helpful.

    Amazon has 70,000+ suppliers and 2 million+ merchants. They're not about to force anyone to use their staff of 4 in-house photographers as a condition for selling products.

    Amazon is in the retail business, with $75 billion annual revenues. Do you really think they will choke their own supply-chain by requiring companies to use their in-house photography business so they can make a few measly bucks? That would be a monumentally stupid move.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    They could grant a license to their suppliers, to use their patented light set up themselves
    As a condition of the license, they could require any supplier, who uses the patented light set up , not to use those photographs elsewhere
    They could offer suppliers an incentive to use there patented light set up


  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    Do you know how bizarre that sounds, though? Why would Amazon bother at all?

    They can just tell their suppliers to provide acceptable images and be done with it. No need to patent, no need to provide licenses, no need to provide incentives, etc.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited May 2014
    @Ade They could indeed

    Having all you catalogue photographs to the same standard and requiring the minimum amount of PP would be a big advantage

    Once Amazon have dictated that exact standard, any rival company could then do exactly the same, by copying Amazons specification

    One of the biggest problems in a successful business, is trying to prevent other people from copying you ( you will never stop them, but there is no point in making it easy for them)

    Anything you can do to hinder your competitor, is advantageous, especially if you are a multinational and can afford expensive law suits
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    But again, you're talking about Amazon specifying standards or specifications, not the use of methods in certain patents.

    I.e., the mechanism prevent other people from copying specifications is copyright, not patent.
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