Amazon lighting patent raises concerns

by Cullen Welch

posted Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 2:32 PM EDT


The recent issue of an unusual U.S. patent on "Studio Arrangement" and a "method of capturing images and/or video" to Amazon Technologies, Inc. continues to raise eyebrows in the international photography community. Studio photographers will recognize that the Patent describes a historically well-known and well-used technique to capture a subject against a seamless background (think advertised product positioned against a pure white background). So what is the thinking here, and is there real reason for concern?

Amazon's lightning patent.

The patent makes multiple claims to consider, but one reader by the name of "Gwo" writes on Shoot the Centerfold that "all subsequent claims depend on Claim 1 or 2, so if you do anything not covered in Claim 1… that's not covered. So this patent Claim 1 only applies if you have ALL of:

  • 4 rear light sources, in a 10:3 intensity ratio, in exactly
  • An 85mm lens at f/5.6
  • ISO 320 set
  • An elevated platform with the object on it, and a reflective top surface on that platform."

And perhaps most importantly, "if you're using a setup substantially similar to that shown in any photography guide / textbook / lighting book etc. written prior to the filing date, you're absolutely in the clear, as this is demonstrably prior art."

Of the 27 claims made in this patent, only three are independent, meaning that the other 24 build upon existing arrangements and increase in complexity. The three claims that are independent, as mentioned above, would be difficult to infringe upon without deliberate effort to successfully meet each requirement simultaneously.

It seems as though everyday studio photographers are in the clear, still leaving us to wonder, what is the point of this patent? Peter Thorniley, a patent attorney in London, speculates that this move might provide Amazon with the ability to seek a court order looking into other 'industrial operations', should they be inclined to target competitors.

(via Shoot the Centerfold and Amateur Photographer)