8th May 2014 – Table Top Photography and Patent US 8676045 B1.

Apologies one and all for the previous absence of this post, it was written and competed 11th May but for some reason butterfingers here didn’t press the right button and it has sat on WordPress as a draft – and I’ve only just noticed? Doh! Whereas I am certain that you felt less-than-deprived I really wanted to share a great evening with those who couldn’t make it, and thank those who made it possible so I am publishing it now. This weeks will follow in due course. Ian G.

 

May 11, 2014 @ 12:33

The table top/macro photography evening returned last Thursday and, as ever, was well attended. There were a variety of stations and a good number of things to try. From an unscientific example a goodly percentage of people learned something new. The club showed its strength by playing to the wide range of experience within it. Thanks to everybody who made this possible as from Dan E’s Lego via Eddie H’s Dalek through Gerry’s flora (and personal thanks from me for the use of the lights and soft box) to Eddie D’s dog Ella and much more we weren’t short of materials to photograph. Thanks are also due to Ian C and Hanneke and anyone I have inadvertently omitted.

Luckily most – and if anyone is asking ALL – of our photographs were taken against a BLACK background. Why is this important? Well if they were taken against a white background we could be owing Jeff Bezos some serious dosh because a patent has been issued in the USA covering the taking of photographs against a white background. No, it’s not April 1st. If you take a photograph against a white background using a studio set up you owe could Amazon royalties (in the USA), patent US 8676045 B1, issued 18th March 2014 which grants intellectual rights to Amazon Technologies Inc on the taking of photographs against a white background, specifically:

 a background comprising a white cyclorama; a front light source positioned in a longitudinal axis intersecting the background, the longitudinal axis further being substantially perpendicular to a surface of the white cyclorama; an image capture position located between the background and the front light source in the longitudinal axis, the image capture position comprising at least one image capture device equipped with an eighty-five millimeter lens, the at least one image capture device further configured with an ISO setting of about three hundred twenty and an f-stop value of about 5.6… (US 86,76,045 B1)

As techdirt has so precisely pointed out, this ground breaking technological event essentially is comprised of four distinct actions:

1. Turn back lights on.

2. Turn front lights on.

3. Position thing on platform.

4. Take picture.

Abuse of the patent process? If patents are for novel and innovative inventions then this really does look abusive of the system. However, because the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has decided to be a sweet shop for those with expensive lawyers (again, see the smart-phone case referred to below) this is the law, at least in the USA. If you are doing any of these things with a camera against a white backdrop you owe Amazon money for the use of their intellectual property and it’s enforceable in the US civil courts but – good news – not internationally (yet) because of agreements on intellectual property rights still have to be registered internationally for protection in other juristrictions, and can be horrendously expensive. Amazon have deep pockets.

 

Other good news is that it would be unlikely in the UK, given the HTC v Apple Inc. patent case on the slide-to-unlock for locking/unlocking a phone or app that was judged insufficiently innovative. That probably lasted in the Judges mind all the way to when he swiped open the catches on his expensive briefcase to get to his sarnies. A Bart Simpson “Oh, yeah”, moment if ever there was one followed by a horrendously expensive “Doh!” from Apple a couple of weeks later. Unlikely, however is not impossible and you really do not want to be the poor soul on the end of a High Court Writ.

 

In a way this patent issue has a direct route back to William Fox Talbot and his photograph of the oriel window in the South Gallery of his home, Laycock Abbey, in 1835 from which he developed Talbotypes a.k.a. Calotypes. They required over an hour’s exposure time. He required good light and a steady position from which to take image which remained an absolute essential of taking a photograph for many decades after. Fox Talbot put a lot of time, effort and money into the development of the process and along with his partner Nicolaas Henneman made a sort of business out of it in Reading. The prompt for Fox Talbot applying for the patent to his invention was the arrival of the Daguerreotype, invented by Louis Daguerre in 1839 using a different process and though the Calotype became the norm the Daguerreotype has enjoyed a long if minority history. Fox Talbot’s patent was issued in September 1840 but Daguerre’s invention was given free to the world in all but one country – the UK, where his agent had it patented.

 

The point here is both Daguerre and Fox Talbot made something novel. Yes they used and experimented with others chemical discoveries and observations but they made their own and for a clearly discernible purpose using their own resources outside of the world of the Patent Lawyer. They changed the world. I can’t for the life of me see what Amazon intend on doing with this patent apart from annoy every serious amateur and professional photographer within the patent’s jurisdiction, or as they would know them “Potential customers” across a whole range of products, indeed their entire range of products. Unless, as  ‘Dodge & Burn’ posted on the Techdirt comments section, they make it a term and condition of their suppliers that the white background product photograph has to be taken according to the Amazon Patent, or has been taken according to the Amazon Patent therefore they demand a royalty for it. Quite possibly another way to exploit its monopoly position. Could be made to work world wide too if they insist that all images are pre-screened through their US based HQ.  Only if they are as devious as me, I suppose.