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.

  12. Mitoo Bobsworth
    Facepalm

    Un-Believing-Fuckable.

    If I file a procedure & method for razing the USPTO to the ground, will they ratify it?

    Please?

    1. Originone

      Re: Un-Believing-Fuckable.

      A slightly more subtle and ironic method might be to apply for a patent for a method of conferring intellectual property rights over concepts, ideas, methods and processes, and their specific or non specific technical implementations. Once that's granted, as it most surely will be, you can then sue the USPTO out of existence for infringing your shiney new patent.

      1. Mitoo Bobsworth
        Thumb Up

        Re: Un-Believing-Fuckable.

        @ Originone

        Thanks for that - much better idea. I was running on the assumption that they're all, in fact, as idiotic as they appear.

  13. Tom 35 Silver badge

    approaching zero?

    No, they have been digging for some time.

  14. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    If you read it

    They are patenting it not being a white background but detecting the background and adjusting "the web RGB colors" of the image to make it white - in other words automatic white balance.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: If you read it

      So the thing my camera does, the one I bought a decade ago?

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: If you read it

      Is that why the shirt I bought didn't look the same shade as the one in the image?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: If you read it

      "They are patenting it not being a white background but detecting the background and adjusting "the web RGB colors" of the image to make it white"

      Like wot the genlock did wot I used on an Amiga computer all those years ago?

      1. JassMan Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: If you read it (@John Brown)

        Sorry, but as a pedant I feel duty bound to point out that GenLock has nothing to do with white balance. It is a system for locking the Sync Pulse Generator of a local device to match the Sync Pulses of an external reference (which may be the external video feed itself) so that you can mix local and external pictures together. Obviously if those pictures are in colour and the GenLock is not correctly phased then one or the other pictures will have wierd colours but this has nothing to do with making antything white.

  15. Christian Berger Silver badge

    The problem are patent lawyers

    Typically the patent clerk checks for such things. However since lawyers are very unpleasant to deal with, they will probably try their best to get them away more quickly. This is the main task of a patent lawyer, you don't need it otherwise. (My patent, and all the patents at the company I worked for previously, didn't need a patent lawyer.)

  16. Bernard

    Correcting the conclusion

    'Nazer said Amazon would be unlikely to try and use this patent in court yet, and it's more likely something that the company can just add to its existing portfolio to use as a weapon when it has reached peak innovation and wants to stop more agile competitors from eroding its market share.'

    The problem with stupid patents isn't necessarily that many will immediately or ever be aired in court, it's that the very threat of them stifles innovation and dramatically increases the barrier of entry into technology markets so that bloated incumbents can extract profits at the expense of the public good. The need to hold a war chest of vague patents to do battle with makes it much less likely that a new Microsoft or Oracle will rise up to slay the existing monoliths and therefore much more likely that the current ones will continue to extract excessive license fees well past their natural expiry date.

  17. Only me!

    Gibbons

    Gibbons are highly intelligent primates.

    Please do not insult them by saying they might work for this bunch of twonks!!!

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Gibbons

      Yep, if only the USPTO were staffed by Gibbons

  18. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Alien

    I have a patent on corporeal being.

    So if you are not a ghost, please send the £50 licensing fee for yourself and any animals you own to the following address .....

    Captain Cretin

    The Starship Astral Princess

    Clarke Orbit

    Earth

    Sol

    Milky Way

    Sorry, I can never remember the Post Code, I remember it ends ZZPluralZ.

    1. Alister Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: I have a patent on corporeal being.

      I remember it ends ZZPluralZ.

      You forgot the Alpha...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The lawyers made sure the first patent they took out was 'methods for checking patent applications for prior art and obviousness'. So to avoid patent infringement, the USPTO was thus prevented from checking any subsequent patent applications. Et voila...

    There's an argument that with the large financial numbers sloshing around patents, a small tax or tariff on patent licence fees could be directed to funding more and better patent inspectors.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There is no question that the USPTO is in a state of horrible disrepair. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that the USPTO, like the USPS, generates revenue for the government, but receives no funding from it. The USPTO is therefore dreadfully under-funded, and it has primarily attempted to deal with this problem by (1) hiring less qualified examiners, and (2) using computerized word searches rather than having examiners actually read patents to determine the relatedness of concepts. So anyone can get a patent on something simply by making sure that the invention is described using different terminology than previously granted patents on the same subject matter.

      As a result of these practices, the value of truly novel patents is seriously degraded. In fact, the whole US patent system is now in a complete state of disarray. While its credibility may or may not be zero, its value certainly is. There is no general solution to this mess that I can think of, other than to re-examine everything from the '80s (when the computer word search method replaced human searching) to the present. This amounts to about 5 - 4 million patents.

      As an inventor, I have landed firmly in the middle of this horribly distasteful pile of ****. Fortunately the value of my IP is high enough to warrant raising funds to sue the numerous infringers. As an aside, I would add that the verbal abuse directed at "patent trolls" is completely misplaced. They are the one recourse to justice for little guys against 800 pound gorillas.

      As to this particular patent, as a serious photographer I find it quite useful, surprisingly. It solves a problem I have been grappling with for some time. It is not about taking a picture against a white background. It is about configuring the stage and lighting so that the object appears to be completely suspended in space by making the platform indistinguishable from the background. I will be building this capability into my studio quite soon.

      So I do believe that the patent's method is useful. Whether anyone ever discovered this method previously, thereby invalidating the patent due to lack of novelty, is another matter. How about if some of you professional critics take a look around and see if there is any "prior art".

      P.S. I wrote a letter to the White House discussing these USPTO problems, but so far (39 months later!) I have not received a response. The current system is heavily stacked in favor of the 800 pound gorillas, as very few independent inventors can afford the $15 million plus cost of defending an infringement.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        FAIL

        As an aside, I would add that the verbal abuse directed at "patent trolls" is completely misplaced. They are the one recourse to justice for little guys against 800 pound gorillas.

        Patent trolls are those entities that hoover up patents solely for the sake of litigation. No physical product incorporating one of their patents ever leaves their premises. They don't help you, as a small-scale patent owner, assert your rights against that 800 pound gorilla; perhaps you meant patent lawyers?

        As to this particular patent, as a serious photographer I find it quite useful, surprisingly. It solves a problem I have been grappling with for some time. It is not about taking a picture against a white background. It is about configuring the stage and lighting so that the object appears to be completely suspended in space by making the platform indistinguishable from the background. I will be building this capability into my studio quite soon.

        Solving that problem is obvious to anyone skilled in the art.

        1. Not That Andrew

          I think what he means is quite often the only recourse a small inventor has when faced with a large company infringing one of his patents is to licence or sell it to a third party with the funds and will to sue. Unfortunately at the moment, those are mainly patent trolls.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm going to patent discussing patent trolls on comments to news articles.....

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IP Gold Rush + US global enforcement of IP = Perfect Storm of stupidity

    It's the new gold rush. Grab a patent for anything and everything. Copyright too while you're at it. Then hire patent and copyright trolls and sue the pants off everyone on the planet who dares to even come near your vaguely-demarcated IP territory.

    This is the nightmare scenario of intellectual property laws run amok.

    IP rights have a long tradition in English Common Law, but represent a societal and economic value that must coexist with and be weighed against other societal and economic values. Somehow, IP rights have gained unprecedented status in their ability to trump every other imaginable human value. They are out of control and out of proportion to their traditional role in society. Their value has ballooned and become grossly exaggerated.

    It is long past time to rein them in, curtail them, reduce them to a more limited existence in harmony with other societal values.

    Specifically, we need new legislation to cut back on IP rights, and cut back on the power of international treaties that enable the global enforcement of IP rights. The upcoming TPP will only make things worse. The beast must be stopped.

    1. Gray
      Devil

      Re: IP Gold Rush + US global enforcement of IP = Perfect Storm of stupidity

      "The beast must be stopped."

      Probably too late. The shift of capital has become a tsunami. America is now an oligarchy, no longer a democracy. Not to bemoan a young Croesus their inherited wealth, but their families control the boards of all major multi-national corporations and to protect their holdings, they now control the US government.

      So the US Patent Office rubber-stamps corporate patent applications. It will stifle innovation, eliminate small developers, and ensure that only the titans of patent inventory will rule ...

      Well, my golly, if a few hundred million PAC-bux here, and a few thousands of Washington lobbyists there can't convince the government to see things in a favorable light ... well, then ... one might just as well retire to the yacht and drive a few golf balls off the sun deck!

  22. Ken 16 Silver badge

    Those photobooths are obvious infringers

    Amazon deserve a piece of that action.

  23. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Joke

    Patent for killing many people in one go in the patent office.

    This involved closing door (1) in an airtight manner (2) then releasing (3) gas pellets (3b) from safe enclosure (4), finally putting fire (5) to the building after a suitable period of mourning (6). Although "Zyklon B" is mentioned hereunder, this is just done for illustration purposes and nothing in this patent shall be construed to mean that other chemicals may not be used.

    Prior art you say?

  24. etabeta
    FAIL

    Everybody should be sent home

    Whenever these scams surface, all those involved with the particular case at the patent office, at all levels, should be immediately fired.

    Patents like these must be also immediately invalidated without appeal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Everybody should be sent home

      That pre-supposes there are people with common sense and integrity to do so.

      Bear in mind we are talking about the USA.

  25. Richard Scratcher
    Thumb Up

    Snap!

    I've set up my studio with the subject, background, lighting and camera in such a way that I have achieved a really useful effect.

    Now I want to "patent" that set-up so nobody else could use similar equipment in that particular arrangement.

    Yippee!

    1. Bernard

      Re: Snap!

      You're not thinking like a patent lawyer. Shame on you.

      The crucial second part of your patent application is to say that while the setup you lay out is one way of acheiving a good picture this shouldn't preclude any other set of paramaters from being considered under the patent.

      Now that we know you can open up the methodology as a catch-all variable it only seems logical to do the same with the idea itself.

      'While this methodology (or any other) relates specifically to the taking of a good picture, it does not preclude the utilisation of these steps (or any other set of steps) in the furtherance of another goal. These other goals are also covered under this patent.'

      Bingo, you've successfully patented everything.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Totally useless patent

    It's virtually impossilble to have a pure white background. However my proposed patent for taking photos against a non-white background, that's an earner.

  27. ukgnome Silver badge
    Joke

    Hahahahahahaha you now owe Amazon a quid ------------------>

  28. Isendel Steel

    Prior Art

    Got some hanging on my wall - taken by a Professional Photographer from about 6yrs ago....

  29. Stuart Castle

    Can I patent something?

    Can I patent an idea for an office, where multinational corporations can register even the most vague or stupid of ideas? This office will do minimal checking of the idea, including whether it describes something that has been done or registered before, or is even possible.

    This office will then allow said corporations to sue anyone who does something even vaguely similar to the registered idea, for billions if necessary.

    I ask this because clearly the fact it's been done before does not bother the US Patent Office.

  30. Grant Mitchell

    Hmmm.

    Passport agencies now have to pay amazon then? Looks like the UK have it covered though... they don't specify white:

    https://www.gov.uk/photos-for-passports

    taken against a plain cream or light grey background

    But in the US, they may need a slight change to the instructions.

    http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/photos/photos.html

    Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background

  31. Frankee Llonnygog

    ... taking photos against a white background – seriously

    Is it too late to patent taking photos against a white background flippantly?

  32. TRT Silver badge

    Taking photos against a white background...

    Is that why Flickr has gone for that crappy black look now?

  33. Magnus_Pym

    Breaking news 2025

    US courts report that all current IP patent licensing dispute appeals have been completed and the value of shares in US business jumped to record highs as every business is set to receive a trillion dollars in licensing fees.

    In other news employment is at a record low everywhere (except the legal sector) cost cutting is rife as every business is set to pay a trillion dollars in licensing fees.

  34. harmjschoonhoven

    Just asking

    Has USPTO also granted a patent to photograph a black cat in a coal cellar at midnight?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Just asking

      That reminds me...

      "The blackness of my belt is like the inside of a coffin on a moonless night."

      Haru/Chris Farley

      Beverly Hills Ninja (1997)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have a look at the diagram. It is a rather quirky and odd set up.

    Patents are about a process. But it seems daft that you can't set up lights in a certain way because someone else protected their right to that arrangement.

    Almost like saying you can't have 4 chairs around a table and eat food off it.

    1. Werner McGoole

      Or that you can use a ruler to measure any length so long as it's not 10cm.

  36. Mage Silver badge

    Obviously a conspiracy

    USPO is a front for the USA lawyer Mafia.

    No, it's not made OK if Amazon claim they are never going to sue someone. Who knows when someone like Murdoch or Ellison would own Amazon in the future?

  37. Chika

    White, eh?

    Something that they need to consider is that the term "white" has a number of different definitions. Ask anyone that worked in the TV industry back when colour was being brought in and you'll hear all about it! Does this patent specify the exact illuminance and mixture of white that they intend to use?

  38. Tom 13

    Not quite as bad as El Reg makes out.

    Valid patents frequently depend on an arrangement of very specific angles that produce a superior product. An example of such a patent would be an angle on a camshaft that allows the optimal flow with minimal pulsing in closed high pressure pump for a single piston pump.

    In this instance it isn't simply on a white background. It is for:

    ...when captured with an image capture device, as a near perfect white without the need for post-processing, retouching, or other image manipulation. In other words, images and video of items captured in the studio arrangement appear against a background that is equivalent to a white background when converted into a web color hexadecimal triplet corresponding to a true white.

    Now you can make fun of this all you want, but I've edited enough crappy "white" images in my time to recognize the commercial value of something that eliminates the need for such editing. And yes, this is the sort of thing a company could invest a couple hundred thousand dollars determining.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not quite as bad as El Reg makes out.

      Quite so.

      Here is a nice exercise to all those frothing at the mouth over this. Carry out claim 1 exactly as it reads. (Print it out, carry out each step, checking them off as you.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not quite as bad as El Reg makes out.

      It is as bad. Every set up would have to be calibrated and verified with an ongoing p.m. cycle set up to make sure that there were no discrepancies. The size/shape of the object is also a factor (shadowing). The labor in the setup is no different than using a 'green' screen and editing the picture (photoshop plugin called advent-edge for example). They're going to have some post production work, since all DSLR sensors are not exactly the same (colour, noise), lens imperfections, mis-lighting of product due to setup requirements...

  39. Col_Panek

    https://www.linux.com/news/friday-funnies/patently-ridiculous

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You got to be kidding

    So this is a more expensive and better set up than I'd been using at a former employer... a white photographic area with a camera mount and an array of lighting. How is this different than what commercial photographers have been doing for years?

  41. This post has been deleted by its author

  42. The Mighty Spang

    people and products?

    They might be infringing on MY patent. I've patented photographing *objects* against a white background.

  43. Clive Galway

    Someone needs to patent a "method by which money can be extracted from business whereby a document is issued that purports to give a company sole rights to an existing product or process"

    The USPTO might learn the meaning of "Prior Art" when taken to court for infringing on a patent that they issued...

    1. Robert Jenkins

      I was thinking RICO - the Corrupt Organisations bit.

      The only people who can possibly make any money from this are the American 'Lawyers' fighting over it.

      There have been so many dubious patents issued in the last few years, with blatantly obvious prior, that the only reason for issue can be to create business for lawyers, at the expense of businesses & the public.

      That smells like racketeering & corruption to me.

  44. CmdrX3

    Honestly I think they have just given up

    They have probably been bombarded with that many ridiculous patents now, that rather than go to the hassle now of doing what they are supposed to, they have now completely given up and just take the fee and rubber stamp everything with the view of letting them slog it out later in the patents court. Eventually the patents court will also get completely gummed up with people fighting stupid patents that should never have been granted.

  45. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    I've thought there could be a simple solution to these sorts of boneheaded patents. There needs to be a "fee refund" process in polace: if the PTO issues a patent that gets thrown out in court for prior-art or blatant obviousness, the person who filed the patent could get their fees refunded, along with a 500% punitive fee against the PTO.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The patent system has 99 problem, but this patent ain't one!

    I'm pretty disappointed by the reporting here on the register - you do realise that the "worryingly vague language" you seem concerned about is pretty standard in most patent. The patent does not claim anything like as general as taking a picture on a white background - if you actually read the first claim (the bit that defines what they are legally protecting), it is patenting something very specific. Their first claim is over 10 lines long, including details of lighting (4 light sources), f-stop, camera lens, ISO settings and other things. So I think this patent is worth very little!

    There are several examples of poor patents (the Yoga one quoted by Nazer is a good example), but I feel the Amazon one is being unfairly criticized because it make a good headline (no I don't work at Amazon, in fact I work at one of their competitors).

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