Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sat May 10 2014 09:40:16

Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

By: Ina Steiner

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Many experts recommend online sellers take their product photos against a white background, but according to TechDirt, that could someday get them into trouble.

TechDirt, a blog that often rails against regulatory and legal absurdities, reports that the US Patent & Trademark office granted Amazon.com a patent for taking photos against a white background. It discovered the development on DIYPhotography.net, which wrote:

"I am not really sure how to tag this other than a big #fail for the USPTO, or a huge Kudos for Amazon's IP attorneys. In a patent simply called Studio arrangement Amazon took IP ownership on what we all call shooting against a seamless white backdrop."

Yet at the same time, Amazon requires product images be taken with a white background. On its "Product Image Requirements" help page under "Amazon Site Standards for Product Images," it states:

Backgrounds must be pure white (RGB 255,255,255).


It's hard to believe Amazon would try to prevent sellers from taking photos against white backgrounds - commentors on TechDirt have interesting theories about how the ecommerce giant might wield its power.




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Sat May 10 10:10:12 2014

Hard to believe since you see white backgrounds everywhere.

If interpreted correctly:

RELEASE the PATENT TROLLS!!!

The sooner this gets to court the better.  

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Sat May 10 12:37:45 2014

Oh good grief! I guess I'll start taking photos against a green background and create a color mask to remove the green background and make it an object that I can then place on a white background. Ugh. What nonsense!

Or, I'll start taking photos of objects against a 1% gray background (technically not white).

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Sat May 10 12:55:41 2014

Too silly for words, but the major corporations need to be looked after—at the cost of the hoi polloi, for it is these corporations that offer the best "jobs for the boys" afterwards. You only have to look at what eBay and many others get away with to know that the whole bureaucratic system has been corrupted, to at least initially, favour the most powerful at the cost of the peasants, just like in medieval times ... http://bit.ly/11F2eas

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: WOODJUNGLE! ON EBAY

Sat May 10 13:58:53 2014

Define white?  You could use one tick of black, cyan magenta or yellow and then it technically is no longer white. To the eye it would be perhaps but what about for  legal purposes? This is absolutely absurd and I honestly wouldn't worry about taking photos behind any backdrop, unless it actually was either pornographic or violated 'real' trademarks or copyright laws.

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Sat May 10 14:18:09 2014

I am sure no patent for a white background can stand challenge. I don't see what it patentable about it. anyone can get a patent. It doesn't mean its defensible.

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

by: OnceuponaTime This user has validated their user name.

Sat May 10 14:43:11 2014

Doesn't light also create shadow, based on the distance the object is away from the background and the angle of the photograph taken?

If an object is photographed close to the background, with the lights on and then further away in the same light setting, but from an angle wouldn't the shade of white be different when the picture is taken?

I don't know is this is true but if it was then wouldn't Amazon technically own the rights to any shade variation of a seamless white background?

Wouldn't anyone who uses a seamless white background of their own be in violation of amazons patent of use unless they are given license rights to photograph?

Paying Amazon for the right to photograph on the white background they require sellers to use on their site.

Could this be correct?

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Sat May 10 15:45:27 2014

It used to be that patent applications were, at least nominally, examined for originality; apparently not any more ...

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Sat May 10 16:58:59 2014

I'm going to patent black text on a white background.

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Sat May 10 17:49:52 2014

The USPTO is chock full of lawyers. Lawyers in such positions generally just wait for the courts to work it out.

That might cost someone millions, but they are lawyers so they are OK with that.  

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Sat May 10 22:18:54 2014

I think I'll patent the color white, and then Amazon can pay me for use of "my" color in their backgrounds. And has everyone at the Patent Office lost their collective minds? I remember many years ago an attorney I was working for was trying to obtain a patent for a device invented by one of his clients, and he had to keep submitting more and more material and never was able to get the patent. And now Amazon is getting a patent for a white background, and I remember eBay recently got a patent for some absurd thing. According to the uspto.gov site your patent must be for something "novel" and "nonobvious." How does photographing something on a white background not fall under both those criteria?    

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.

Sat May 10 22:28:03 2014

Stupid waste of patent office time.
How can amazon patent something that's been taking place for decades?

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sun May 11 00:04:52 2014

The stupid gene is spreading...

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sun May 11 02:34:30 2014

I know!

Let's patent the combination of red, blue, yellow, and green in consecutive letters in company logos.

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

by: Oldguy This user has validated their user name.

Sun May 11 11:01:47 2014

Maybe Amazon would start showing a ''healthy'' profit if they didn't waste millions(maybe billions) on stupid crap like this.  Wonder if Jeff Bezos is turning into a BOZO like JD. Are they going to take turns seeing who can come up with the dumbest idea next??

The patent office needs to regroup and have a ''thinking'' day. Then get fired and start all over again.

Wonder if someone patented the air you breathe???  Pay a fee to breathe???  50 years ago you would get laughed at for the idea of selling bottled water....Now...

Years ago, my father obtained patents for some industrial equipment he desingned and built. Complicated and expensive process.
Obvious getting a patent on a picture with a white background is something brand new.  I guess go back to the 1800's or whenever pictures first came about and file a patent injunction on all of them. Also, every retailer since they started taking pictures.

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

by: Oldguy This user has validated their user name.

Sun May 11 11:04:44 2014

Never could figure out how to take a picture of basically a white item and use a white background.  Some items look better on a background other than all seamless white and you get better details.  In addition create more of an interest to the potential buyer.

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Sun May 11 11:27:46 2014

@Ming - I have a better idea! File a patent for use of lower case letters in company logos. You'd be rich from all the money you got from ebay and amazon.

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

by: OnceuponaTime This user has validated their user name.

Sun May 11 12:00:32 2014

Off topic to the color white but on topic to the patent issue...There is a seed manufacturer who has patents on food seeds, whereas these patents require the farmer to sign a contract agreeing to not
re-plant any seeds leftover from the initial purchase the following season, and worse yet to not extract seeds from the vegetables grown from this manufacturer's contract to the farmer.

Simply put any leftover seeds from planting must be thrown away, and if you decide to extract seeds from that crop to replant, you are breaking the law.

Reason is because these seeds are Genetically Modified. the company invests millions each year into this, and like the pharmaceuticals feel they are entitled to recoup their investment.

Some will say this is all well and good. I would prefer knowing what I eat rather than dealing with lobbyist who fight to keep the words Genetically modified off any labels of produce grown from these seeds.

I guess it is a matter of choice for people, and if people don't mind eating say corn modified with the genes of a pig, then so be it.

As for myself I would barf if I found out I was eating some of the brain cells of  JD in my fruitloops

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Puck

Sun May 11 12:16:39 2014

''Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos''

Coming Soon:
eBay Patents All Respiration Methods Involving the Breathing of Air.

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Sun May 11 13:52:46 2014

Somebody needs to stop by the Patent Office and take away all their "Approved" rubber stamps.

Perminate Link for Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos   Amazon Patents a Popular Method of Taking Product Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Sun May 11 14:45:19 2014

@onceaponatime
And, if the birds carry or wind happens to blow the gmo seeds into a neighbors field, that neighbor can be sued if DNA from their crop reflects the patented seed! That lawsuit has already happened in the midwest.


btw...

Interesting to read some of the ''what it is like to work for amazon'' stories the Gawker is doing. Not just worker bees stories but management, too. I stumbled across them on google's aggregated news page.  Sellers can relate to  experiences in some of the stories.

Must every big business go on to lose its soul?

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