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


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.

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.


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