Amazon Patents a lighting technique

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by pge, May 6, 2014.

  1. pge

    pge

    Did you know this was possible, and can you imagine getting a cease and desist letter because you took a photo on a white background? I know the Patent is more specific than a white background, but who's to know the exact angle of your lights afterwards. Can you imagine standing in court and saying to the judge, "your honour my lights were pointed at 103 degrees, not 107".
    Link to Patent
     
  2. It's interesting that one of the claims refers to a specific lens focal length, ISO and f/stop. I wonder if that applies to the entire patent or the one studio setting?
    The lawyers are salivating as we speak...
     
  3. I thought a patent has to apply to a new invention or idea.
     
  4. IMHO, I would have expected that most reasonable / knowledgeable patent examiners would have replied to this application with the statement:
    "The teachings herein are obvious to one skilled in the art".
    In other words, you're not getting a patent, even if you are Amazon.
    T
     
  5. We were writing at the same time, Jos. Your are exactly right, and that's what that canned phrase means.
    T
     
  6. I've been scanning and filing a lot of documents lately, and I "invented" a syntax for the file names that works pretty well for me -- assists in organization. I could actually patent that. I could even patent it if someone else had already patented the very same file naming system. In doing patent searches, I've sometimes found as many as four patents for the very same thing. I think almost anything can be patented.
    DEFENDING the patent is another thing entirely. Just because someone has a patent doesn't mean they can defend it -- or would necessarily even want to try. Imagine if I used Amazon's lighting setup. Do you think they would have any interest in suing someone as small as me? I should feel flattered if they expended postage on a cease and desist letter. But if Home Depot started using it for their website, there might be a suit. Whether such a suit would be winnable is another matter. (Was substantially the same lighting technique used by previous photographers, making the technique "obvious?" Are there other earlier patents for essentially the same thing? Is there anything so unique about Amazon's technique that it even merits patent protection?)
    I think Amazon's lighting patent is pretty tame, compared to UPS's trademark registration on the color brown. Yes -- a color that we all use! Anyone with a dog probably infringes upon UPS's trademark at least once on any given walk.
     
  7. I only glossed over the patent that appears to be describing a specific method of achieving a white background without the need for any post manipulation.
    It reminded me of the early noise cancellation patents which seemed stupidly obvious even during its time of patent filing and granting, except until that time no one ever thought of using the technique in the manner described in those patents.
    It'd be interesting if someone will replicate the setup and publish their process and findings in a lay presentation so we don't have to imagine it.
     
  8. It does seem unwinnable without a great expenditure of time and money not to mention the response of the public to such a case.
    Sarah, I thought UPS only holds patent on their specific brown - not all browns.
    Conni
     
  9. What I find curious is that there's really no apparent financial or other material gain possible from such a patent; it's not obvious they will be able to make a salable product from it or even collect licensing fees.
     
  10. I'm glad I can't afford NINE background lights, but if I could, I would just have to remember to turn on the front light first (see fig. 3)
    Maybe Amazon sellers will someday be required to take their product shots using the "Patented Technique" which could generate user fees, or penalties if a shadow was seen on the background.
     
  11. The patent goes on to say that the parameters specified are representative of a range and any reasonable values should be part of the claim. It is hard to think that other photographers have not done something like this already. So much for prior art.
    The economic claim appears to be that the photographs would not require any further processing to eliminate extraneous details such as the edge of the object platform. So, why not simply treat this as a trade secret rather than potentially going after retailer X for similar quality photos as infringement.
    The whole patent system stinks. Witness the cat fights between Apple and Samsung. Many patents should not have been issued.
     
  12. pge

    pge

    DEFENDING the patent is another thing entirely. Just because someone has a patent doesn't mean they can defend it
    &
    It does seem unwinnable without a great expenditure of time and money​
    I have a little bit of experience is this situation. The reality is that when a big player like Amazon or Disney or Home Depot or Starbucks sues you, you have to roll over. You or I can't afford to even start the process. If they decide to defend their Patent, they win and you loose. It is like playing poker with someone who raises $500,000 every time it is their turn.
     
  13. We were doing this, or some version of it, in like 1973 when my dad was a studio photographer and I was four years old. Thinking I may patent Coca Cola with ice.
     
  14. Perhaps Amazon joined the patent trolls in an attempt to thwart the patent trolls who might assert that Amazon infringed on their patents through its extensive use of product illustrations.
     
  15. Wow. I thought i'd find something clever or "techy" in the patent, but Amazon really is trying to patent what a good studio photographer would consider to be one of the basic requirements of the job. I wonder if Amazon will continue to sell Light: Science and Magic, or if they will consider it infringing on their patent?(which would be difficult, because it has been around for quite a while!)
    Yeah, the Patent Office never should have issued this one.
     
  16. Years ago Crown International patented the Pressure Zone Microphone which is essentially a microphone laid on the floor. The idea is that there will be no phase interference because the capsule is placed on the reflecting surface, and as an added benefit there will be a 6dB boost in output due to the boundary layer effect.
    Of course there's no commercial value to a claim of putting a microphone on the floor, so Crown cleverly trademarked PZM and made a microphone with its capsule facing downward nearly against a boundary plate designed to be placed on a large surface such as the floor, and patented it. It was a huge commercial success.
    Link
    Years later, a couple of professors at Waterloo University wrote a paper proving the design to be technically flawed, rather the capsule should be embedded in the boundary surface, facing upward.
    http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=11958
    Crown's patent and resulting product created huge controversy, but in its defense it created an equal amount of interest in boundary layer microphone designs in various forms, and today we see just about every conference microphone in use, and many other applications, to be of variations of Crown's initial design, and now just about every major microphone manufacturer offers a boundary microphone of some type.
    There's probably more than meets the eye to this Amazon patent, in particular the Plexiglas platform [101] and the cyclorama background [102] and how they interact with the lighting positions to support their claim. Again, I'd like to see someone actually replicate the setup and give us a review before coming to conclusions.
     
  17. Years later, a couple of professors at Waterloo University wrote a paper proving the design to be technically flawed, rather the capsule should be embedded in the boundary surface, facing upward.​
    I have made a few boundary mics with the capsule facing the surface. They work very well.
     
  18. "I have made a few boundary mics with the capsule facing the surface. They work very well."
    The difference is probably more academic than of any practical significance.

    I've played around with boundaries, PZMs and variants too - a flush mounted capsule on a backing board facing upward is free and doesn't suffer from HF shadowing, as pointed out by Lipshi'tz* and Vanderkooy; so simple anyone can do it.

    It's more a case that you can't patent the idea of putting a microphone on the floor and expect to profit from it, but you sure can profit greatly by build a floor-mounted microphone and surround the idea with lots of clever marketing and mystique.

    * Apostrophe added to name to circumvent PN's "swearing filter".
     

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