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

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 …

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  1. Herby Silver badge

    Prior art??

    Must have skipped USPTO's mind, empty as it is!

    Next thing you know someone will get a patent on bipedal movement at a slow pace. Another one might be fertilization of human eggs by (well, you get the picture...).

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Prior art??

      They diligently searched their patent database and nobody else had patented "taking a photo against a white background"

      1. Psyx

        Re: Prior art??

        "They diligently searched their patent database and nobody else had patented 'taking a photo against a white background'"

        They didn't go as far as checking their own driving licences, though.

        1. Jaybus

          Re: Prior art??

          "They didn't go as far as checking their own driving licences, though."

          Looking at all of the photos of iPhones and such on Apple's website, I'm left wondering who will file suit first, Apple or Amazon. Wait a sec....there are apparently thousands of tens of websites with photos taken against white backgrounds. I'm not so sure people in Washington DC have white backgrounds on their driving licenses, but perhaps USPTO workers have no internet access.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Prior art??

        Perhaps the search was powered by A9?

        1. oolor

          Re: Prior art??

          http://patents.stackexchange.com/about

          Surely some of the posters here have knowledge or research skills that could help kill or minimize such patents. I confess that it is beyond my capacity. The wikipedia-holes along the way prevent timely contributions.

          1. jonathanb Silver badge

            Re: Prior art??

            How about the UK passport agency's rules on taking photos, which require you to take it against a white background, or the photome photo booths which allow you to take selfies against a white background for that very purpose?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Prior art??

              Actually their rules specifically require photos be 'taken against a plain cream or light grey background'

              An outrageous and shabby ploy to avoid paying the appropriate fees to Amazon no doubt.

    2. LarsG

      Re: Prior art??

      I claim patents on the colours of the rainbow and all the shades in between.

    3. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: Prior art??

      I don't think this patent is meant as anything that can be enforced in a court; most likely it's just fluff to convince investors that Amazon is a serious tech company "look at how may patents we have".

      1. wowfood

        Re: Prior art??

        I already have a work around. I have a patent in the works for taking picture of a white box, with an object in the foreground. It's brilliant.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Prior art??

          Is there a patent for rectally fitted maize seed heads?

        2. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Prior art??

          "I already have a work around. I have a patent in the works for taking picture of a white box, with an object in the foreground. It's brilliant."

          Hey, you do realise you could take that picture to the equally moronic bullshitters in the art world and it'll be exhibited in the Tate Modern for 2 months with an accompanying booklet using lots of long words only a thesaurus knows about in incomprehensible sentences that don't actually mean anything.

          1. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: Prior art??

            It'll be authored by amanfrommars ?

          2. Steve Aubrey

            Re: Prior art??

            Re: the Tate installation -

            A) They will probably install it upside down

            B) and nobody will notice

            C) until the patent lawyers get involved.

            *sigh*

        3. Darryl

          Re: Prior art??

          " I have a patent in the works for taking picture of a white box, with an object in the foreground."

          How about taking a picture of an object in front of a white background on a mobile device

          1. Uffish

            Re: mobile device ??

            The photo would be blurred.

            Patentese requires something along the lines of "A portable or mobile transmitter and receiver unit for use in a duplex radio telephone system including at least one base station transmitter and receiver arrangement and one or a plurality of said portable or mobile transmitter and receiver unit(s)".

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Prior art??

          Then I have putting a company logo on a box. Hey Amazon, want to license it? Oh, I have packaging items to either group them or to protect them during shipment in the works as well.

    4. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Prior art??

      "Another one might be fertilization of human eggs by (well, you get the picture...)."

      Not against a white background I hopefully.

      1. Number6

        Re: Prior art??

        "Another one might be fertilization of human eggs by (well, you get the picture...)."

        Not against a white background I hopefully.

        Depends on the colour of your sheets...

    5. Euripides Pants Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Prior art??

      "Must have skipped USPTO's mind, empty as it is!"

      They drew a blanc....

      Mine's the one with "Fotogerfy fer dummeez" in the pocket.

    6. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Prior art??

      As silly as it may be the Patent office is only there to record and to act as the most basic of filters. The courts decide on the validity of a patent if there is ever a challenge. It helps keep the cost of the patents low, at least initially. I am in no way saying this is better or worse, personally I don't care, but that is how it was explained to me. Honestly I think it damages the credibility of the entire system, but it has been mentioned to me that you have to have credibility before it can be damaged.

      1. Vic

        Re: Prior art??

        As silly as it may be the Patent office is only there to record and to act as the most basic of filters. The courts decide on the validity of a patent if there is ever a challenge.

        That might be how the USPTO sees it (although it shopulnd't!), but the courts take the opposite view: a patent that has been granted by the USPTO is presumed valid, and is not invalidated by the court without a significant amount of work.

        This leads us the the disconnected situation we currently have in the US - both the courts and the USPTO believe it is the other's responsibility to decide on the validity of patents, so no-one actually performs the function.

        IMO, if the USPTO isn't properly determining whether something is patentable or whether it is covered by prior art, it is nopt doing its job, and is in urgent need of reform. Yeah, like that's going to happen :-(

        Vic.

  2. as2003

    How much does it cost to get a patent?

    I'm going to patent "A method of applying for beyond-trivial, and/or blatantly common sense ideas, concepts and processes".

    Then sue all the trolls.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: How much does it cost to get a patent?

      Beaten to it by IBM http://slashdot.org/story/11/01/02/1534223/IBM-Files-the-Patent-Troll-Patent

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        Facepalm

        Re: How much does it cost to get a patent?

        It's just as well IBM didn't get that patent, Halliburton would have had to sue them....

        Techdirt.com : Halliburton Tries To Patent Form Of Patent Trolling

        1. cyfahead

          Re: How much does it cost to get a patent?

          It costs just enough to make this a big boys game. In 1997, my late partner filed to USPTO the original de-duping (not the word used at the time..) patent. And although lauded by Rand Corporation and the European Patent Review office and allowed in Mexico, Russia. Singapore, Australia and South Africa I spent years of my life responding to the same boiler-plated inane USPTO 'Office Actions' or whatever they call them. Their 'rebuttals' never changed despite my detailed responses.

          All major non-US corporations we approached were very very interested, until their US-linked 'major' shareholders got to hear of this 'threat to national security' (remember that to some people cipher compression IS encryption... especially when no passwords are ever generated or needed!). We ran out of money, upto $20,000 a year just keeping alive the patents that we did get. Then my partner strangeley died suddenly in the midst of negotiating with a large U$ dominant player when he came up with a means of compressing pure binary streams on the fly on top of what we could already do.

          Their 'inane' patents policy is not serendipidity. The more the US can dilute the global IP registers with trash, especially trash that costs lot to counter, however inane, when the time comes they can tie up the rest of the world in confusion when they start to finally lose their economic 'leadership'.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What needs to happen

    is for every country on the planet to set up trade agreements with each other, rescind all trade agreements with the USA and put them under severe sanctions (as they are also fond of doing to others) until these idiots come to their senses.

    With the burgeoning development of China and India, the USA is no longer the only, or even largest, tech-product market any more. There are 300 million of them. There are over 6 billion of us. It's high time we locked them out and left them to stew in their own idiotic intellectual-property soup for a while.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: What needs to happen

      There are patents just as stupid as this in the EU, and I saw an article that listed some whoppers in China.

      It is only newsworthy because it is Amazon, as they are other large tech companies (Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, etc.) are watched by both the media and Wall Street for clues as to future products. If some random LLC incorporated in Indiana was granted this patent, no one would hear about it unless/until they tried to sue a big name company for infringement.

      Really stupid patents like this are issued to nobodies every day, and unless that nobody goes under and their assets are purchased by a patent troll with the will and resources to spend millions suing big companies we never hear about it. Thankfully.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Re: What needs to happen

        I have yet to see patents so patently absurd awarded in the Netherlands or indeed the EU. I have one patent to my name, and the process appeared to be quite thorough. There may certainly be the odd one that slipped through (would love to see one), but not the spate of silliness coming out of the USPTO.

        Note that the USPTO gets funded based on how many patents it awards not how many it processes. That is a perverse incentive if ever there was one.

        1. Vic

          Re: What needs to happen

          I have yet to see patents so patently absurd awarded in the Netherlands or indeed the EU. I have one patent to my name, and the process appeared to be quite thorough.

          I've got quite a few patents to my name. I thought they were all junk, but compared to the patent described in the article, mine are all shining examples of true invention...

          Vic.

      2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: What needs to happen

        Don't forget the person who patented the wheel in Australia!

        www.newscientist.com/article/dn965-wheel-patented-in-australia.html

  4. Dave Stevens
    WTF?

    Something's off here

    They're not suppose to be paid by the number of patents issued.

    They should be paid for each patent application. So, if somebody keep submitting the same bad patents. that's pure recurring revenue.

    1. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      @Dave Stevens Re: "Something's off here". That is a bloody good idea and..........

      ..........what is more, relatively simple and cheap (except from the point of view of the trolls) to implement. Indeed it really would put the onus on firms (whether they are non-producing entities or just another example of "BigCorp" taking the piss) to sue the USPTO if the patents office refuses to issue the patent. The brilliant thing about that would be that the corporations concerned would automatically have to accept their patent being tested in court whether they liked or not, or swallow no patent being granted. Genius level - see icon.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Something's off here

      Unfortunately, paying them by the application (nearer, I think, to the actual case) would be little better than paying by the patent approval. Patent examiners can be much more "productive", and accordingly earn better performance ratings, awards, and promotions by approving applications. Disapproval is likely to bring the applicant back as many times as it takes to modify the application so as to obtain approval, thus slowing the process down. Approval is quicker and easier, so patent office action would be biased that way even if payment were based on total throughput.

      It would be better to fund based on disapprovals, perhaps also returning the application fee to those who are granted a patent and charging a new fee for each amended application.

  5. Big-nosed Pengie

    "Approaching"?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Joke

      One might well argue the USPTO has negative credibility.

      1. Uffish

        @ Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        ... no credibility but an income stream from annual patent maintenance fees for up to 20 years for each patent granted.

  6. Mussie (Ed)

    amazon can suck my pee pee

    Now I am gonna go take a tonne of white background phtots and post them online

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: amazon can suck my pee pee

      I can't help but think that Amazon and the US patent cowboys should crack open a Dorling Kindersley book or two. Photos against white backgrounds? Check. Check. Check. Checkeddy-check-check. So much prior art, this will only stand to make money for lawyers.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: amazon can suck my pee pee

      No need. The Amazon shopping site is full of prior art uploaded by their sellers.

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: amazon can suck my pee pee

        I suggest this page on their site (or any of the other Rotovision books)...

        http://www.amazon.co.uk/Photographing-People-Portraits-Fashion-Pro-lighting/dp/2880466520

        although I suspect they already have it and photocopied the lighting diagrams to put in the patent.

  7. Lars Silver badge

    Must be

    something in the food.

  8. anatak

    my patent

    I am going to patent 'displaying something in one or more colors on something in one or more other colors'

    and after that I am going to patent portions of the electro magnetic frequencies. So stop using your eyes unless you pay me. And if you look at something you have to pay me double.

  9. PhilipN Silver badge

    Royalties please

    Long ago in these pages I laid claim to the process for the entry of script from left to right in linear fashion across the page and downwards in rows and you pirates are going to have to start paying or else!

    1. bofh80

      Re: Royalties please

      I think i'm turning Japanese, i really think so....(and the rest of the world too. heheh). At least you won't get a patent passed for rounded cornors and a touchscreen tho, ey, oh wait, but according to a certain el reg journo, that's a valid patent......what's worse?

  10. Oh Homer Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Insane

    Clearly the USPTO has given up any pretence of legitimacy. It might as well be replaced with a vending machine.

    1. Ted Treen
      Unhappy

      Re: Insane

      ...and if said vending machine is equipped with a Z80 or 6502 it will have far more intelligence/processing power/awareness than the USPTO has collectively.

    2. Werner McGoole

      Re: Insane

      I doubt they can do that. Amazon has probably already patented the idea: "Method and Apparatus for issuing daft patents...".

  11. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Method to the madness????

    I can see someone patenting just such a thing to use as a defense in court (rounded corners not withstanding). You get a patent troll filing a lawsuit and one of your defenses is that the Patent Office allows 'prior art' and 'obvious' inventions so throw this case out.

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