The United States Patent Office (USPTO) gave the thumbs-up to some doozies of inventions over the past 224 years. Sure, I can get behind the creations that made our everyday lives easier, like the wheel or the light bulb, but trying to patent a stick as an “animal toy” or stamp rights on “the method of swinging on a swing?” Get real.
Amazon recently earned the award for ridiculous patents when it gained legal ownership for “Studio Arrangement,” or, photography against a white background. Before you panic, wondering if Amazon is going to try to sue you for infringing on their patent on your next product photography shoot, check out Stephen Colbert’s mockery of the patent and his take on the entire patent system:
What does this mean for photographers? Are we no longer allowed to take photos of people and objects using a white background? Fortunately, it doesn’t look like it will hamper the studio photography business.
Amazon’s patent is so detailed, it would require a photographer to use an identical setup in order to even consider a lawsuit.
“A background comprising a white cyclorama; a front light source positioned in a longitudinal axis intersecting the background…an image capture position located between the background and the front light source in the longitudinal axis…an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background in the longitudinal axis, the front light source being directed toward a subject on the elevated platform…” -from Patent No.: 8,676,045 B1, “Studio Arrangement”
From this description, it sounds like a basic studio setup with lights illuminating the background and the subject, with a camera placed in front of the subject, right?
The patent goes on to detail the precise camera and light settings, making it easy to alter these enough to avoid any type of patent infringement.
“…the image capture position comprising at least one image capture device equipped with an eighty-five millimeter lens, the [sic] at least one image capture device further configured with an ISO setting of about three hundred twenty and an f-stop value of about 5.6…the plurality of rear light sources and the front light source further comprise a plurality of tungsten light sources configured to emit light having a color temperature of approximately 3200K…”
The question remains, “why would Amazon bother to file such a ridiculous and specific patent on something so commonly used?” While Amazon representatives have not yet released a comment to this effect, Colbert summed it up best:
“Now I know, I know, that sounds like bull***. But, it’s actually male bovine fecal matter extruded on a longitudinal axis.”
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