Patents on studio arrangements? Really, Amazon?

It seems that Amazon, that giant master of online retailing, is once again on a Stupid Patents Bender. The latest? A U.S. patent on a particular arrangement for photographing things against a white backdrop.

The patent couldn't possibly hold up in a court case. The technique it describes is, after all, a standard part of every professional photographer's repertoire – and has been for the better part of a century. It could, however, conceivably be used to extort settlements (substantial, but less than the cost of fighting it in court) from other retailers and the photographers who work for them.

Somehow, inexplicably, the USPTO approved this patent despite (a) it citing only one other patent and no photography textbooks as prior art, (b) there being nothing novel or inventive in it, and (c) the entire document being complete bull. This is quite in keeping with the USPTO's recent practice of rubber-stamping any piece of scrap paper that comes its way, while taking months or years to approve stuff that genuinely is new and inventive.

For some reason, neither Amazon nor the patent office have been answering media queries about this one.


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