Why Did Amazon Patent an Extremely Basic Photography Technique?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 9 2014 4:12 PM

Why Did Amazon Patent the Process of Taking a Picture of Something Against a White Background?

just white space, that's all

Amazon

A photography site called DIY Photography wrote this week that the Amazon corporation applied for—and received—a patent for the process of taking a picture of an object against a white background. Despite the technical detail in the patent documentation, the DIY site says, Amazon is ultimately claiming exclusive rights to a basic version of an extremely common practice:

The patent number is 8,676,045B1 and you can read the entire boring text on USPTO, or just about any basic studio photography book.
Advertisement

The obvious question, given that it seems unlikely that Amazon would actually file or win a patent infringement lawsuit against a mom and pop photography studio based on this claim, is: why get the patent in the first place? TechDirt's commenters suggest a variety of possibilities:

- their legal department was looking for busywork to justify its existence

- an outside law firm was looking for busywork to pad its bills

- it makes the total number of patents owned by Amazon sound more impressive

- it's a potential bullet in an arsenal to use against a theoretical large, well-funded Amazon competitor who Amazon would sue for a bunch of reasons all at once (extrapolating a little: maybe this patent would have some use against an online-retail company that used white backgrounds and was imitating Amazon in many other ways as well?)

- it's a pre-emptive defense against a potential fraudulent "patent troll" suing Amazon and claiming he or she actually invented the white-background technique

There was also a theory that involved the "World Police" and the hypocrisy of American foreign policy. Hey, it's a comment section.

Ben Mathis-Lilley edits the Slatest. Follow @Slatest on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.