Feeds

Amazon granted patent for taking photos against a white background – seriously

US Patent Office credibility approaching zero

Application security programs and practises

You sometimes have to wonder if the US Patent and Trademark Office is augmenting its staff with a few barely trained gibbons – and its latest patent does nothing to ameliorate that view.

On March 18, the USPTO granted a patent to Amazon for photographing people and products against a white background. To answer your next question; yes, really.

US Patent 8,676,045 grants Amazon sole rights to "Studio arrangement", and lists in intricate detail how you can take an image on a white background using arrangements of lights, background materials, and a camera.

The patent is packed full of oddly specific details, from light source strength and positioning down to ISO settings and f-stops. However, it also comes with some worryingly vague language as well.

"It should be emphasized that the above-described embodiments of the present disclosure are merely possible examples of implementations set forth for a clear understanding of the principles of the disclosure," the patent reads.

"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."

Amazon hasn't replied to questions from El Reg as to what use this patent could be put to, so we consulted the Electronic Frontier Foundation's staff attorney Daniel Nazer, who in March was appointed to the organization's "Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents" chair.

"Sometimes I feel that the patent system is a common sense–free zone," Nazer said. "With the Amazon patent, this wouldn't be a hard patent to design around, but it's completely baffling that a patent on this would issued."

Part of the problem, he explained, is that the USPTO gets its revenue from issuing patents, but also that there's no way to stop people trying to get patents on something and constantly reapplying after changing small details in the patent filing, so some may be issued simply to get rid of a persistent applicant.

There are plenty of examples of bad patents out there, he pointed out, citing US patent 8605152 B2. This gem patents "Method and apparatus for yoga class imaging and streaming," and was awarded last December 10.

The patent, awarded to YogaGlo, is for yoga classes that are filmed by a camera in the studio – hardly a new invention. But it's this kind of patent that's fuelling the swathe of trollish lawsuits which raked in $29bn in 2011.

If you are taking pictures of your cat – or anything else for that matter – on a white background, don't worry. Nazer said Amazon would be unlikely to try and use this patent in court, and it's more likely something that the company can just add to its existing portfolio.

But it's symptomatic of quite how barmy the USPTO has become that such a thing would even be issued. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.