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Are patents black and white?

Photographers bristle at Amazon’s patent on photography with a white background

To amateurs, photography can seem like a pretty simple process. You set up your subject, you point your camera at it, and you push the button. But serious photographers know there is a lot more to it than that. For truly innovative photographers, like the ones at, the complex secret to exceptional photography is… a white background?

Amazon received a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) covering the photography of a product in a studio with a white background. While this process certainly reflects the Amazon house style and makes for some excellent images, some professional photographers have taken umbrage with the patent itself.

The online retailer filed for the patent in 2011 and it was granted in March. It covers techniques for placing lighting and camera elements to create a nearly seamless white background.

Some photographers are so outraged that they have started a petition on Facebook asking the USPTO to void the patent. So far, the petition has received nearly 50,000 virtual signatures. And a variety of photographers have made their voices heard online. Blogger David Hobby, a photographer since 1988, told CNET, “even as a kid right out of college in 1988 I didn't think this was new...There is no defending it on any level."

Not all professionals agree with the criticism of Amazon, however. Photographer Ken Rockwell feels that Amazon’s patented process represents a clever way to capture these images seamlessly. “This means if you use this clever method for your studio shots, especially if you're an online retailer showcasing your wares, you might be hearing from Amazon,” The Daily News reported.


Further reading:

Patent troll ordered to pay FindtheBest’s attorney’s fees after failed patent litigation case

Supreme Court rules for Limelight in patent infringement appeal

Enforcing your patent portfolio: Tips to think about before enforcing your patents

Is patent legislation dying in the Senate?

Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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