Amazon’s “Taking Pictures” Patent

Sometimes companies are granted patents that leave people scratching their heads. A perfect example is the patent Amazon received in 2011 for taking photos. The exact language of the patent is as follows:

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″

Put in simple terms – these are the instructions for taking a photo against a while background. Why on earth would Amazon feel the need to file a patent like this?

It all comes down to intellectual property and protecting yourself. Think about what Amazon does – they sell products online. That is their entire business. They need to be able to present consistently high-quality product photos to their customers, or their services will lose their appeal. Amazon’s entire business model depends on their ability to show off their products in an attractive way. When you look at it from that perspective, it absolutely makes sense that they would want to patent the exact process they use to do this.

Because the process is so specific, it’s unlikely that anyone out there who also happens to take product photos is going to replicate this process down to the absolute specifications. In other words, photography studios likely do not need to be worried that Amazon’s legal team is after them. Amazon seems to just be doing their due diligence by protecting something they hold dear. Not everyone agrees that this patent is necessary or helpful, as they have been publicly criticized for filing it in the first place, but from an intellectual property standpoint, it is not that far-fetched.

What do you think? Do patents like this protect things that should be protected? Or are the critics right that this somehow hinders innovation by placing unnecessary restrictions on things?

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