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USPTO Approves Amazon Patent For Taking Pictures 152

An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. Patent Office granted Amazon a patent in March that basically describes taking a picture with a white background. Amazon claims that their method is unique to current photography methods because they can achieve the effect of a true white background without retouching the photo or using any sort of post-processing technique. Some professional photographers disagree, claiming that plenty of prior art exists embodying Amazon's described method and furthermore that this pre-existing method is what the photography industry calls 'shooting against a seamless white backdrop.'"
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USPTO Approves Amazon Patent For Taking Pictures

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  • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @05:16PM (#46953749) Homepage

    Seriously. Did the examiner on this even consider asking anyone who knows anything about photography? I'm not a photographer but I've had my picture taken for "promotional" reasons and already knew about this. I've even created a similar setup here when posting stuff online.

    Took me 10 seconds to find this page:

    http://www.raydobbins.com/phot... [raydobbins.com]

    What, exactly, are they trying to "patent" and why does this examiner still have a job? It's obvious that we need to have crowdsourcing prior art as an official part of the patent process.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2014 @05:25PM (#46953833)

    The patent also lights up the back of the white background. Which in the case of your link, it's not lit. And after all, what they are claiming is that the rear light is what enhances the picture.

    But yes, I've seen similar setups before too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2014 @06:12PM (#46954183)

    My brother is a patent examiner. When he uncovers something that invalidates a patent application (and he's hard pressed for time. The patent office is over worked, understaffed, and runs on quotas) he's supposed to help the company reword the patent to make it acceptable. Almost no patents are simply rejected. The examiners and companies tweak each patent until it fits.

  • by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @06:31PM (#46954327)

    There should be an easy and open mechanism for objections. The process as it stands is broken and very obscure.

    Translation: It should take no knowlege, cost nothing, and preferably involve some charitable group that carries out my wants, unbidden, before I've even appreciated that I have them. Just like in everything else in life.


    Citation of prior art and written statements [cornell.edu]

    "Any person at any time may cite to the Office in writing... prior art consisting of patents or printed publications which that person believes to have a bearing on the patentability of any claim of a particular patent... [and] If the person citing prior art or written statements... explains in writing the pertinence and manner of applying the prior art or written statements to at least 1 claim of the patent, the citation of the prior art or written statements and the explanation thereof shall become a part of the official file of the patent."

    That seems easy, open, to cost nothing (but time and a stamp), and not particularly obscure. But then, if you can't be bothered to Google how to submit prior art [google.com] and then read one of the top 5 links, everything is obscure.

  • by Khyber ( 864651 ) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Thursday May 08, 2014 @11:10PM (#46956025) Homepage Journal

    "Maybe you should at least skim through all the patent claims before saying it's just a camera in front of a white sheet."

    As a photographer (and someone that build light boxes) it's a fucking light box with a light BEHIND and AROUND it.

    Which I've been building and selling for over a decade. In fact I'm making one for one of my forum admins right now.

    Perhaps you should be a photographer before you open your mouth, eh?

  • I'm a pro photographer (mostly portraiture and travel) and I'm doing product photography on the side - just basic products, nothing fancy. What Amazon claims is complete bullshit. They imply that white background product photos need retouching to make the background completely white. This is definitely not the case. Even with the simple setup I have for products (completely DIY setup - a cardboard box, a white roll of paper clipped to the a piece of plastic) I can get completely white background in camera without any retouching. Most cameras have a playback screen that shows white clipping - blown out highlights flashing in red indicating areas completely white. I play around with my lights (2 lights plus reflectors) until I get everything blinking except the product I'm shooting. Been doing this for years. With a proper plexiglass shooting table, this is s cinch. And let's not forget those $25 shooting tents that are designed precisely for this, and allows even amateurs to do it easily (well, with some practice in light placement and power levels).

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine